Boy, am I tired.
It has been a whirlwind, crazy weekend, and we did a lot:
- We saw the Space Shuttle Enterprise fly in from Washington, D.C.
- We toured through the Discovery Times Square exhibition, “Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor“
- I saw “Straight No Chaser” in concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark
- We had lunch at one of my favorite places: L&L Hawaiian Barbecue restaurant in lower Manhattan
- We got treats from the “Cake Boss”, Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken (the cannoli are fabulous)
- We walked for miles every day in Hoboken and NYC
- Although I got my kids to bed somewhat on time, I stayed up far later than I should have every night since Friday (I lay some blame on The Bloggess’ new book!)
Add in a 5 1/2 hour drive down on Thursday night, and another back last night (Sunday), and you can probably imagine how flat-out tired I am.
Normally, I can’t wait to do my blog posts. Today, however, I’ve had a hard time staying awake, despite sleeping in this morning. To make matters worse, there is another Hacks/Hackers event down in the Boston area tonight, and I’m seriously thinking of going.
As soon as I started to RSVP for tonight’s event, I brought myself up short, asking, “What is wrong with me that I am even considering driving 3 hours round-trip for a 2 hour meeting?!”
I guess I have a hard time winding down and relaxing. Like many people, I’m constantly doing something–even if I don’t look like I’m physically moving, because I’ve got my laptop open and I’m online. I may be writing a blog, researching some information on a topic I’m writing, editing photos, catching up with family on Facebook or email, checking the twitter feed for interesting information, or going through the hundreds of emails I get every day.
Then there is also the work around the house: keeping a five-year-old happy, making sure my oldest daughter practices her clarinet, making meals, cleaning, laundry, dishes, running errands, grocery shopping, paying bills, online banking, occasional maintenance or repair work in the house (yes, I do that, too), and the myriad of other little details and jobs that make up an average day.
Actually, as a society, we’re all overscheduled. So are our kids, what with music, lessons, sports, school, hobbies, and sometimes even jobs or, as is the case with my oldest daughter, after-school volunteer work. Is it any wonder that the more we try to cram into the day, the less sleep we get? There are, of course, only so many hours in a day; it’s to be expected that the more we try to do, the more hours we try to borrow, or steal, from sleep.
According to the “Health Risk Factors” section of the 2012 US Census, almost three-fourths of us are not getting enough rest. When asked, “During the past 30 days, for about how many days have you felt you did not get enough sleep?”, only 30% of Americans answered “0 days”. That means that 70% of all Americans are shortchanged on their sleep. When broken down by gender, only 28% of women, and 33% of men, report getting enough sleep each night.
The problem is that we can’t continue to steal from our sleep time with impunity. All that lost sleep is affecting us. It’s not just our moods that suffer; our health also suffers from a lack of adequate sleep. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, Sleep and Sleep Disorders, reports the following:
Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions—such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression—which threaten our nation’s health. Notably, insufficient sleep is associated with the onset of these diseases and also poses important implications for their management and outcome. Moreover, insufficient sleep is responsible for motor vehicle and machinery-related crashes, causing substantial injury and disability each year. In short, drowsy driving can be as dangerous—and preventable—as driving while intoxicated.
So why is it so hard to just go to bed?
For many of us, evening is the only time in the day when we can truly slow down and relax. When evening rolls around and the kids are finally in bed, we’re so tired of all the responsibilities that we end up vegging out in front of the TV, or going online for mindless surfing of the interwebs. Too many of us are overworked from too much multitasking; as a result, when life finally slows down in the evening, we feel like what we need is “a little time for ourselves” before hitting the sack, even though going to sleep early would actually be the better choice.
To compound the problem, the Scientific American found that some people actually get a late-day boost from their brains, which helps them to handle the myriad of activities in which they engage:
“An hour and a half after waking, early birds and night owls were equally alert and showed no difference in attention-related brain activity. But after being awake for 10 and a half hours, night owls had grown more alert, performing better on a reaction-time task requiring sustained attention and showing increased activity in brain areas linked to attention. More important, these regions included the suprachiasmatic area, which is home to the body’s circadian clock. This area sends signals to boost alertness as the pressure to sleep mounts.” - Scientific American, “Early Risers Crash Faster Thank People Who Stay Up Late: Night owls belie slacker reputation by staying alert longer”
Finding it hard to sleep at night? Perhaps it really is the suprachiasmatic area of the brain…or maybe it was that quad-shot mocha (with whip) from Starbucks that did it. Whatever the cause, many of us simply don’t sleep enough at night, and we’re paying for it with worsening health.
From the National Sleep Foundation:
“Studies have found a relationship between the quantity and quality of one’s sleep and many health problems. For example, insufficient sleep affects growth hormone secretion that is linked to obesity; as the amount of hormone secretion decreases, the chance for weight gain increases. Blood pressure usually falls during the sleep cycle, however, interrupted sleep can adversely affect this normal decline, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular problems. Research has also shown that insufficient sleep impairs the body’s ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes. More and more scientific studies are showing correlations between poor and insufficient sleep and disease.” - National Sleep Foundation, Myths – and Facts – About Sleep
This week we will explore a number of things that each of us can do to help improve what is called our “Sleep Hygiene”–the behavioral and environmental factors and habits which affect our sleep. Today, since it’s the first day, we’ll start small.
Your Monday Challenge is this:
Tonight, at least an hour before bed, eliminate all engaging or stimulating screen activities which help to keep your brain on “alert”. That means shutting down all screens (computers, laptops, iPads, televisions, DVD players, and the like). Of course, that includes all video games, as well as Twitter, StumbleUpon, Facebook, YouTube, ICanHasCheezburger, “Damn You AutoCorrect”, and all the other fun little websites we all visit.
Yes, that means you need to shut your phone off, too.
While it feels fun and relaxing to take part in games and social activities, the light and motion from computer, TV, and phone screens actually stimulates the brain, putting it on “alert”. When you’re more alert, it is harder to fall, and stay, asleep. Instead of using electronics, try reading a book, or meditating, or taking a nice warm bath and listening to relaxing music. The BBC reported back in 2005 that just 45 minutes of music before bed can help you have a restful night’s sleep. (No, that doesn’t include YouTube music videos!)
You may find it difficult at first, but making the conscious effort to shut down the electronics will help you sleep better.
Give it a try. Your brain will thank you for it.
Note: I decided against going to Boston, and rescheduled for the Thursday event instead. (Whew!)