Sleep is the Most Essential Tool in the Wellness Toolbox

As someone who frequents the 5 AM shift, this is more of a personal lecture. However, it’s a lecture that I wholeheartedly believe. I may be a hypocrite, but at least I’m self-aware, right?

We all know that sleep is important. Point blank. But do we emphasize just how important it is in modern-day hustle culture? No. Go-getters everywhere brag about how they can “run just fine off of 5 hours of sleep.” It’s me, I said that. I absolutely cannot run “just fine” off minimal sleep, I just tell myself that while yawning through my teeth. The reality is no one can! For a generation of wellness-obsessed individuals chugging green juice, using ice baths and saunas, taking x number of supplements, and attending hot Pilates classes, we are missing the mark on the pillar foundation of health: sleep.

Although we tend to glorify late nights and early mornings, believing extra work to be a token of honor and determination, sleep deprivation does nothing except destroy the asset. We see this mindset in the college kid who pulled an all-nighter cramming for his chemistry exam, the mom who wanted alone time when her kids went to sleep, the businessman who took a red-eye to make it into the office by 8 AM, and me when I make evening plans the night before an early shift. We would all be better off resting, the simplest task, so why don’t we do it?

The Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical school, Charles A. Czeisler, describes the neurobiological functions impacted by a lack of sleep and the impaired cognitive functions that follow. He states that cognitive impairment induced by sleep deprivation is like what occurs in the brain when drinking alcohol. Czeisler says, “We now know that 24 hours without sleep or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1%. We would never say, ‘This person is a great worker! He’s drunk all the time!’ yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep for work.”

Sleep deprivation has ramifications for our physical, emotional, and mental health. Mood changes, weight gain, memory loss, irritability, anxiety, decreased digestion, and many more are all possible symptoms of insufficient sleep.

While I write this with an alarm set for 4:30 AM tomorrow and an inevitable emotional breakdown to follow, please take my word for it: sleep is essential. Not just any sleep. Deep sleep. Adequate sleep. So, next time your favorite influencer tries to sell you on their magical bloating powder, take a hard look into your sleep routine as it might just be that one key thing missing from your wellness ritual.

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