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The big zzzzzz…

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Well, if you’re depriving yourself of some much-needed snooze time, that can catch up to you faster than you might think.

We deal our bodies some serious damage on the daily. Whether that’s emotional, physical, or chemical stress, the fact is that we put a lot of wear and tear on our bodies and our minds. Sleep is when our body sets out to heal that damage that we’ve done throughout the day and sets us up for optimal performance for the next.

Think about it this way: are you going to leave your car running 24/7, 7 days a week without shutting it off at some point? Unlikely. For one, it would run out of gas at some point and cease to function. For another, it’s simply harder for the machine to work at optimum capacity when it’s constantly under stress and strain. The hardware (on the more modern-aged cars) needs time to recoup and install updates. The minutiae of mechanical apparatuses need down time to cool off in order to reduce the amount of friction and deterioration inherent to machinery. Well, our bodies are very complex machines, and just like your dad’s station wagon, they wear down from overuse. An exceptional way to decrease the toll life takes on your body is to get enough sleep each night.

Sleep is the body’s natural reset button. While we load up on the vitamin Z, our bodies are busy repairing and processing the day’s efforts. Instead of having to focus on applied direction, the body has a chance to let the clean-up crew come in and do exactly that: clean up shop. Aside from taking out the trash, the body is also busy integrating the new information it’s gleaned throughout the day into our existing programing. Have you ever had a difficult time coming up with a solution to a particular problem, “slept on it,” and woken up with an answer to your quandary? This is because your brain is busy after the lights go out making connections and processing new information.

A fun tool to use to see if you’re getting to sleep on time is the Bedtime Calculator by the Sleep Education society, which you can find here. The Bedtime Calculator bases its calculations on the sleep duration recommendations of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) for children and adults. For optimal health, the AASM recommends getting the following amounts of sleep on a regular basis depending on your age range:

  • Infants 4 months to 12 months old: 12 to 16 hours (including naps)

  • Children 1 to 2 years old: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)

  • Children 3 to 5 years old: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)

  • Children 6 to 12 years old: 9 to 12 hours

  • Teens 13 to 18 years old: 8 to 10 hours

  • Adults:  7 hours or more

Now I can hear you already: “I have too much to dooooooo! I don’t have time to sleeeeeep!” My question to you is do you really NEED to be checking that celebrity gossip website when you get into bed? Trust me, Beyoncé will still have worn that outfit yesterday if you check your newsfeed tomorrow. Is it ESSENTIAL that you catch up on the latest memes before putting your phone away for the evening? Do you HAVE to watch the latest episode of Ghost Raiders International, Carnival Circuit? It all comes down to personal choices. Do you want to be exhausted and struggling to find the energy to function on the daily? If so, of course you should continue to take time away from your sleep needs and focus on the plethora of distractions that bombard us from the outside. If you seriously want to change your habits and create a better and healthier life for yourself, though, there might be some personal sacrifice involved. So put down that phone, turn off that laptop, and get some much needed shut-eye.

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