If you ask people what the key is to being healthy, most would say two things, and you probably know what they are: eat right and exercise. Eat a healthy, low-calorie, high-protein diet 5-6 times a day to keep your blood-sugar levels even throughout the day. Drink about half of your body weight in ounces of water (160 lbs = 80 oz of water). Spend at least 30 minutes each day in some form of exercise.
Although it is true that you will be in much better shape if you do those two things, there is one component missing to truly achieving optimal health, and that’s sleep.
Sleep is one of the most underrated, under-appreciated, activities in our day, and many of us treat it as an obligation rather than an activity that will lead us to greater health. According to WebMD, “chronic lack of sleep is linked to colds and flu, diabetes, heart disease, mental health, and even obesity”, and people who get six or less hours of sleep each night are more likely to experience those symptoms than those who get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. The reason is simple: the body was designed to spend 1/3 of each day repairing itself, solidifying memory and preparing for the next day.
When we neglect sleeping, it has a similar effect to neglecting eating: lower levels of energy, higher levels of discomfort and distraction, and, eventually, poor physical health. Unfortunately, most people in America see sleep as the worst time of the day, often staying up as late as possible to watch TV, dragging themselves out of bed and putting down a few cups of coffee to feel “normal” again.
Instead of fighting sleep, embrace it as one of the easiest activities you can do to increase your health. It may seem impossible to find 7-9 hours each night for sleep, so follow this simple pattern:
- Determine what activities you would like to do in the morning before you leave for work, and decide how much time it will take to accomplish these activities. My list of activities looks like this: shower/shave/get dressed (30 minutes), eat healthy breakfast/read bible (30 minutes), write this blog (30 minutes). So I need 90 minutes in the morning before I leave for work to get everything done.
- Determine what time you need to leave for work each day and then subtract the time needed to get the activities in step one done to know what time you need to wake up each day. For me, I have to leave my house by 6:35am to catch my bus, so that means I need to get up between 5:00-5:10 each morning.
- Subtract 7 hours from your wake up time to know the latest you need to go to bed each night. Seven hours puts me in bed no later than 10:00pm each night, and ideally by 9:00pm. That may sound early to you, but getting in the habit of turning off the TV and jumping in bed gets easier as time goes by, and the way you feel in the morning will be worth it.
Doctors and psychiatrist don’t know exactly why our bodies need to sleep a third of each day, but they all agree that getting less sleep is harmful to achieving optimal health, and those who sleep 7-9 hours each night have been shown to enjoy life more, accomplish more and live longer.
I’m sold on sleep. How about you?