It’s the thing we think we can scrimp on – the seven or more hours of sleep per night that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that we get.
If you look at the list of bad things that can happen to you as a result of burning the midnight oil, you might rethink it. According to WebMD’s “10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss,” there are a number of things that might befall a drowsy person.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S.
Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, stroke and diabetes.
In the “Whitehall II Study,” British researchers studied both the sleep patterns and mortality rates of more than 10,000 British civil servants for 20 years. The results, published in 2007, showed that those who slept five hours or fewer a night nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes. Specifically, lack of sleep doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
And not to mention, lack of sleep kills your sex drive, ages your skin, dulls your memory and makes you gain weight.
So how do we get more of it?
A lot of people rely on their wearable technology to guide them.
“I use my WHOOP,” Oak Forest resident Aleksa Pilc said of the fitness tracking device. “It gives me a time frame of the optimized number of hours for me to sleep based on how active I was throughout the day.”
Jenna Taylor of the Heights relies on her Fitbit but said even without it she can usually tell if she falls short of eight hours more than a few days in a row.
“Watching my sleep cycles on the Fitbit and comparing with the day before helps me find patterns of eating, activity or just plain sleep disruption that I can be mindful of and make adjustments as needed,” Taylor said. “Some things are out of my control, but I can go to bed earlier when I’m short on sleep that week and wear my eye mask if extra deep sleep is needed.”
Area resident Imelda Johnson, a British transplant, said she read “Why We Sleep” by Stephen Walker over the holiday break and wants to make a change.
“This lifelong night owl is trying to train myself to be more compliant with the crazy obsession with early a.m. culture, finally after 28 years of resistance, that I am immersed in in the U.S.,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately. my geography doesn’t allow for my natural circadian rhythm.”
Others say they take melatonin or listen to meditation apps or relaxing podcasts. I have to admit here that my go-to is listening to an episode of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting. For me, it always works. It goes without saying, however, that looking at a screen is not going to help you get to sleep.
My favorite sleep tip came from Montrose resident Lillie Besozzi, who uses a free app called Sleepwatch which automatically tracks sleep with the Apple Watch. If you don’t have one, you can enter sleep times on the app manually.
“I have two friends who also use this app,” Besozzi said. “If we have a super deep heart rate dip, (or) exceed our one- or three-day targets, we send screenshots and brag about it. But it’s really us checking on each other’s self-care.”
And speaking of that, the first step in getting more sleep is knowing you deserve it.
“Discovering that I need (and deserve) more sleep has been life-changing and given me superpowers,” Heights resident Alison Schmieder said.