Sleep Better in 2021: Why You Need the Rest

Do you sleep better, or worse, after too much excitement? How many of you slept in on New Year’s Day?

Most of my family did. But, while we all went to bed after midnight, I alone got up well before dawn. I couldn’t wait to begin the first day of the year!

Don’t get me wrong – I can definitely sleep in with the best of them. And interestingly, as the father of five children, I’m the witness to an entire range of sleep patterns:

  • Deep sleepers who are very difficult to awaken.
  • Light sleepers who awaken fully in a matter of seconds.
  • Sleepers who lie abed until noon when given a chance.
  • Sleepers who’ve been early risers from the start.

Yet, no matter how different our patterns are, we all need a certain amount of sleep. My entire family can certainly tell when someone hasn’t had enough! 

Sleep Better: Your Body Will Thank You 

A Carnegie Mellon University-headed study of 153 healthy adults aged 21 to 55 found those sleeping fewer than seven hours nightly were 300 percent likelier to catch a cold (common cold – rhinovirus) than those sleeping eight hours or more.

Many more studies affirm the unhealthy consequences of inadequate sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and Sleep Research Society (SRS) warn:

“Sleeping less than 7 hours per night on a regular basis is associated with adverse health outcomes.”

Their lengthy list of adverse health outcomes?

  • Weight gain and obesity 
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Depression
  • Increased risk of death 
  • Impaired immune function 
  • Increased pain 
  • Impaired performance 
  • Increased errors 
  • Greater risk of accidents

 

Think about it! Just by making sure you average eight hours of sleep per night, you’ll reduce your odds of experiencing these eleven serious health issues!

Yes, some say they need less sleep than the rest of us. But research indicates that people who reportedly thrive on scant sleep are anomalies.

I’ve often envied them their superpower. But I also notice that claiming you don’t need much sleep doesn’t make it so. The slightly unhinged behavior of people who skimp on sleep is evident to everyone around them!

For someone like me, who tracks every hour of the day to squeeze out more efficiency, sleep sometimes feels like an unnecessary obligation. Far too often, I’ve sacrificed my rest in the name of my work.

And without enough rest, I, too, can become a bit unhinged!

Take my completed 2020 New Year’s resolution to read and review 100 books in 100 days. As proud as I am of that lofty achievement, it undeniably took a toll on my sleep health. 

To Sleep Better, Find Your Magic Marker

However, knowing I need to sleep better and actually doing it are two very different issues, which leads me to my favorite book on the subject, Dr. W. Chris Winter’s The Sleep Solution.

Dr. Winter helped relieve my anxiety about skimping on sleep. He also provided plenty of pointers on how to sleep better.

One of his most emphatic suggestions is to awake at the same time every morning. Like jet lag, sleeping in on the weekends can throw off our natural rhythms.

Even after nights when we have trouble falling asleep, it’s best not to compensate by sleeping in. Awakening at the same time each morning provides a “marker” your body uses to regulate your wake/sleep cycle’s components.

Moving this marker by getting up at different times makes it harder to maintain a healthy cycle. So, after reading The Sleep Solution, I tried to awaken at the same time every morning.

Ultimately, however, the snooze button won the day. I continued to struggle with inconsistent wake-up times. 

As 2021 approached, however, committing to sleep better kept rising to the top of my potential New Year’s Resolutions list. I understood the positive trickle-down effect it would have on all my other resolutions.

So for 2021, I resolve I will wake up at the same time every morning. 

I confess that staying up late on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day has already tested my resolve. However, after eating plant-based, I’m convinced sleeping eight hours is one of the healthiest things I can do.

Going to bed on time will help. But to best regulate my sleep, I’ll follow Dr. Winter’s advice and wake up at the same time.

Because better sleep is exactly what I need this year!

Don’t we all?

 

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