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Sleep debt is killing us.

Fly Feet Running Blog - Sleep Debt

For 11 years I went to bed at 10:00 p.m. and got up at 4:00 a.m.  I thought I could function on 6 hours of sleep.  Usually around 3:00 p.m. I got a headache – I thought I just needed a coffee.  By Friday, it was really hard for me to get up, my workouts weren’t as intense, and the thought of going out that night sounded like hell on earth.  I really thought this was just part of the work week cycle.  I “caught up” on Friday and Saturday, but it was never enough.

Then, last January, Fly Feet did our first “challenge”.  As part of that, we were supposed to get 8.5 hours of sleep a night.  I was going to skip that part for the following reasons:

  1. I thought I only needed 6 hours to function.
  2. 4:00 – 6:00 a.m. was the most productive part of my day to get stuff done.
  3.  The extra two hours of sleep seemed like a waste of time. 

After learning a bit more about the impact of sleep debt, I decided to take 21 days and give it a try to see what happened.  It literally changed my life.  At first, it was hard to get into a rhythm.  I couldn’t fall asleep.  I felt groggy.  And, I assumed this was further evidence that 6 hours was my magic number.  But, I kept going …

After 7 days, I started sleeping much better.  My mid-afternoon headache went away.  I actually felt a lot better.  I didn’t feel like a zombie during my Friday workouts and dinner with the fam.  I realized that I didn’t really know what “good” felt like until I forced myself to get 8+ hours of sleep.  I am a new person. 

But, don’t take it from me.  Studies show that one in three of us suffers from poor sleep.  Sleep debt has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and poor mental health among other health problems. In short, a lack of sleep is killing us.

In an interview with The Guardian, Professor Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, said a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic” is causing a host of potentially fatal diseases.  Sleep deprivation affects “every aspect of our biology” and is widespread in modern society.  An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60s without medical intervention.  Take a quick read of the linked articles and rethink your sleep habits if you’re not getting 8 hours. 

5 tips for a good sleep:

A cool room

The National Sleep Foundation recommends a bedroom temperature of 60 to 67 degrees for the most sleep-friendly conditions.

Power Down

The bright light during the daytime is a big part of what sets our circadian rhythm to keep us awake when the sun’s up and asleep during the night. But the blue lights in our phones are so bright that they can interrupt our sleep—especially if we use them too close to bedtime.

Compression. 

Roll on a trigger point roller or sit in positions of restriction like pigeon or shin to wall.  Stretching and compression is a signal to your body to start shutting down.  Think about how you feel after a good massage… nap time!

Hide your clock

Constantly checking the time only increases your stress, making it harder to turn down the dial on your nervous system and fall asleep. 

Can’t Sleep? Get Up. 

If you’re still sleepless after 15 to 20 minutes, hit the reset button. Get out of bed and go to another room. Try reading, making yourself a cup of herbal tea, or just sitting and relaxing (but resist the urge to check your e-mail or watch TV).

All Hail the Treadmighty,

Kristin