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The Importance of Sleep

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Lately I've been thinking a lot about sleep. It's probably on my mind because of my lack of sleep, but the biggest problem now is that I have no one to blame but myself. Many of us with young kids know that when you have little ones in the house, you no longer need an alarm clock. Some of us can't remember the last time we slept through the night and would consider a 7am wake-up call sleeping in. That was me at this time last year. I had a young baby in the house who would wake up in the night to feed. Even if the baby slept in, my other two children were up bright and early. I guess I shouldn't blame my children for my lack of sleep back then because if I was smart, I would have gone to bed earlier knowing that I'd be up in the night and up early in the morning. My youngest no longer wakes through the night (although he's an even earlier riser than his siblings). But even though I am finally getting some uninterrupted sleep, I am still lacking in the sleep department.

We often don't realize that getting the proper amount of sleep is as important to our health as exercise or nutritious eating. According to the National Sleep Foundation the recommended hours of sleep per night for adults aged 26 to 64 is 7 – 9 hours. The proper amount of sleep is vital to our overall health. In fact, we spend almost one third of our lives sleeping! Sleep is important for our mental and physical health, quality of life and safety. When we sleep, our brains are busy forming pathways that help us learn and remember the things we encounter each day. Sleep is important to keep us physically healthy because it gives the body time to heal and repair itself, helps maintain hormone levels and promotes healthy growth and development. And finally, the proper amount of sleep helps you function properly and safely during the day. People who are sleep deprived are often less productive and have a slower reaction time which can lead to accidents.

Although I am aware of the importance of sleep, I struggle with making sleep a priority. My “to-do” list is always long. Some of the things on my list are daily responsibilities, like preparing dinner and getting the kids ready for bed. Once they're asleep, I try to check a few more things off my list, like dishes, laundry, cleaning, exercise or making lunches. Too often, I try to do everything on my list and I fail to leave myself time to just sit and decompress. This leads to a late bed time and inevitably an early morning, day after day. I know better and I know I should just leave one or two things from my list for another day so I can get a good nights rest. But I am someone who can function quite well on little sleep so I don't make an effort to go to bed early. As I was researching current sleep recommendations I came across the following from the National Sleep Foundation:

"Most importantly, make sleep a priority. You must schedule sleep like any other daily activity, so put it on your 'to-do list' and cross it off every night. But don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done – stop doing other things so you get the sleep you need."

I feel as though this was written specifically for me and I will be making a conscious effort to take this advice to heart. Sleep is important and it's time I make it more of a priority!

April 18, 2016 by Shannon Vandermeer

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