I have no doubt you have bemoaned the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. There is never enough time to get things done, is there? Either we work to exhaustion or we sleep less than the 8 hours that adults should. Our sleep is controlled by the circadian rhythm of the body and by how much daylight we experience. When the sun goes down, the body begins to produce melatonin which induces sleep.
If you are a teenager, you need about an hour more sleep. Unfortunately you are at a great disadvantage as your circadian rhythm is pushed later into the night. In other words, it is natural for you to be active until 11:00 pm. But as you know, high school schedules often require you to wake up at 6:00 or earlier. Under these conditions it is nearly impossible to get enough sleep.
But why do we sleep? There has been much scientific research into why humans need to sleep. Indeed, we are not alone in this need for sleep and the number of animals that require no sleep or very short periods of sleep number less than a dozen. There is good evidence that the body uses times of sleep to repair damaged cells, remove toxins, and the brain rewires itself.
The Twins are coming. Keep watching.
Regardless of the reasons we sleep, we need sleep. And good sleep enhances our waking hours allowing us to be more productive. We can think more clearly and we are physically stronger. Focus, alertness, and concentration are all higher. So we are left with two things to consider.
First, how do we get 8 hours of good, effective sleep? It has been well documented that our late-night screen time, like right now as I write this blog, decreases the production of melatonin. There are melatonin supplements and herbal teas available that are quite effective. Some people believe alcohol helps provide a good night’s sleep. While one may fall asleep after imbibing, science shows that the quality of sleep is diminished.
The truth is, we have to be proactive to get quality sleep. A simple google search will provide ways to assist our minds and bodies to slow down and prepare for sleep. I’m afraid I am not one to offer advice. I can take the melatonin and still toss and turn for an hour or two (or three or four).
Second, we need to seriously look at what we do during our waking hours. Daytime stress will take a toll on your quality of sleep. Casual physical activity such as a walk in a park will improve your sleep. Spending time in a positive relationship may be one of the best ways to prime your sleeping time.
I fully understand how hard many of these good ideas are to bring to fruition each day. Our culture has made both our day and night time so much more difficult to manage. There is something to be said about the good old days when evening work consisted of conversation, games, reading, and handicrafts. The truth is, if you will it, you can return to that pattern of evening activity. It will absolutely take work and staying away from technology. But for the resulting well-being of a good night’s sleep, I think it’s worth it.
Now, if only I can do this myself.