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  • Writer's pictureBecci

Prioritize Sleep, Always



How come that we humans are so keen not to sleep? Why do we often prioritize anything other than sleep? We wake up by our alarms, rudely ripping us out of our sleep cycles, to have more time, as we claim. Time we then spend working, exercising, taking care of family, socializing, walking the dog, doing chores, you name it.


In our daily lives, we do anything we can to fight sleepiness (my own latest obsession has been peppermint essential oil on the temples to stay focused and alert during work), instead of working on improving our sleep duration and quality. Why do we fight our biological needs so much? Because we are made to believe that sleep equals laziness, that prioritizing sleep means you don’t want to be a functioning member of society, because you’d rather spend your time in bed than doing anything productive.


What somehow failed to be delivered with this notion is that by not sleeping well and enough, you are actually harming yourself and your society. Matthew Walker said this better in his book Why We Sleep - The New Science of Sleep and Dreams:


“Within the space of a mere hundred years, human beings have abandoned their biologically mandated need for adequate sleep - one that evolution spent 3,400,000 years perfecting in service of life-support functions. As a result, the decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health,  life expectancy, our safety, our productivity, and the education of our children. This silent sleep loss epidemic is the greatest public health challenge we face in the twenty-first century in developed nations. If we wish to avoid the suffocating noose of sleep neglect, the premature death it inflicts, and the sickening health it invites, a radical shift in our personal, cultural, professional, and societal appreciation of sleep must occur.”


There are loads of scientific studies on how sleep loss and bad sleep quality affects your health short and long-term, in ways, it is difficult to imagine. I encourage you to go and read some of it (maybe starting with the above-mentioned book, as it summarizes most of the latest research). But even without reading the research, you already kind of know what effect little sleep has on yourself after just one night of tossing and turning: Think about how much worse you can focus on your daily tasks, how you get sleepy behind the wheel, how your eating habits change drastically after a night of almost no sleep, and how you seem to never be able to catch up on sleep in general. Now, project your own experiences with bad and little sleep on that of an entire population, and you might be able to imagine the impact our relationship to sleep has on our society.


So here is what I want you to do, in two easy steps:


1. Prioritize your sleep and learn more about it.

Educate yourself! This is the number one thing. Knowing why you sleep and also how you sleep is the first step to understanding: a) the importance of sleep and b) your sleep quality. We have all been deprived of proper sleep education during our lives. Think back to your education: we have (hopefully) had some sort of class or academic input on sex ed, basic biological functions, sport and nutrition in our lives so far, but nobody ever told us anything about why it is important to sleep. We owe it to ourselves to fill that void of knowledge about our bodies and then go live by it. 


2. Become an advocate for good and enough sleep.

Once you have your facts down and are sleeping enough and well, go out and advocate for sleep! Abolish the stigma of laziness, get rid of the notion that less sleep makes you a better human being for society, just because you appear to be working harder and longer, or get in more hours of extracurriculars: whatever it is that you might prioritize over your sleep in your life... Be gone with the glorification of those “tough people” out there, showing off by claiming they only need very few hours of sleep and are good to go. Let’s instead try to cultivate an environment where sleeping enough is the new standard. Where a person who wakes up without an alarm by a natural sleep rhythm every morning is the new normal, not the exceptional weirdo who puts too much emphasis on their wellbeing.


Let's organize our societies around the necessity of sleep for a healthy body and mind of all of us.

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