Oh! What a beautiful morning! Oh! What a beautiful day!
Yeah right! The alarm went off, and I begrudgingly woke up, feeling like I did not sleep at all. Then I headed to the gym only to find the streets covered with slush because last night’s snow turned to rain. Mr. Salt Truck jolted me awake as the salt pellets catapulted off the buildings and onto me. I made breakfast, brought the bowl to my desk, and sat at my computer only to notice two spoons in my bowl of oatmeal. What!? Clearly I am off my sleep schedule.
We have heard the importance of getting eight hours a day, but I recently learned the importance of also being on a sleep schedule. At this point, you may be tempted to close this blog and read no further. Who the heck wants to or can be on a sleep schedule? I thought the same when my doctor ordered me to do so, but I tried it. So please read on!
First, my doctor spoke with a yoga master about various topics, including the topic of sleep and how it impacts mood. During this conversation, he educated her on the fact that yoga masters are on a sleep schedule. Not the kind where they go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, but the kind where they go to be at 9 PM and wake up at 4:30. She asked, “What about 10 PM?” He said, “That is too late.” Well, we settled for 9:30 to bed and 6 to rise.
Before we settled this, my arguments with myself and my doctor were…..
- Issue #1: My husband is a night owl, if he is able to sleep at all. How can I spend time with him? He is sleeping in the morning when I would be awake.
- Issue #2: There is too much to do in a day. How am I to get on this schedule and stick to it?
- Issue #3: We live in New York. People don’t even leave their apartments till at least 8 PM to go out. I will never see my friends.
- Issue #4: Sleep schedule???? How about just 8 hours? I promise to get in 8 hours.
Doctors’ response: “Most people’s stress, anxiety, and health issues would be resolved if they got on a sleep schedule. Why do you think yoga masters are so calm and centered? If you want more balance in your life, you need to get on this schedule.”
Was she right? First let’s look at the data. In 2006, Harvard published an article listing the six reasons to get enough sleep which include:
- Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
- Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
- Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
- Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
- Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
- Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.