As we move forward in 2016, it seems as if we have it all figured out. After all, we are living in a hyper-connected, digital age where machines are taking over human tasks, where on-demand apps are providing a variety of services that are available in minutes (dating/making new friends included) and where the majority of social interactions are happening online rather than in person (guilty as charged).
What we haven't figured out yet, however, is the value and importance of sleep. Just as cigarettes were once considered non-harmful in the 1930s, we are currently living in an age that actually glamorizes sleep deprivation. Yet not getting enough sleep at night can be just as detrimental to your health as smoking.
Time for a Wake-Up Call
In her new book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, Arianna Huffington notes that 71 percent of Americans sleep next to their smartphones at night (guilty, yet again).
"Keeping your smartphone by your bed at night is kryptonite," Arianna diligently mentioned during "The Power of Sleep" conference she conducted with Sheryl Sandberg in Santa Clara, CA last week.
She also mentioned that over 40 percent of people everywhere are sleep deprived. Yet while this statistic is alarming, it shouldn't come as a surprise either. We are living in an "on-the-go" society that actually promotes not getting enough sleep.
Where I live in San Francisco, for instance, I see busy women and men constantly working all the time. Armed with their smartphones and MacBooks in both hands (double fisting with technology is common here), these individuals stay awake by drinking multiple cups of coffee throughout the day, which ultimately results in getting just a few hours of sleep at night.
Here is what a busy tech CEO in San Francisco has to say about her lack of sleep (recorded on Flyy App):
The Less Sleep, The Better?
Although women and men are "pretty much dying" due to a lack of sleep, being able to survive and function on just a few hours of sleep has become glorified as "macho" and "strong" character traits that demonstrate success. A passage in The Sleep Revolution notes,
"It's also our collective delusion that overwork and burnout are the price we must pay to succeed. The method (or cheat code) we use isn't a mystery: feeling that there aren't enough hours in the day, we look for something to cut. And sleep is an easy target."
Less sleep, however, does not result in increased success. It can lead to quite the opposite, in fact. It's been noted that adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night in order to perform their best. Just as humans need food to survive and function properly, sleep is no different. It has even now been proven that a link exists between sleep and effective leadership, a notion that was recently highlighted in a new study from McKinsey research.
Leadership aside, getting just 1 hour more of sleep each night can also result in a 14 percent increase in the odds of having sex the next day (ladies, rejoice!). It's also interesting to note that getting more zzzs helps you remember your dreams. What I find particularly fascinating about sleep though is that it's a vital human function associated with crucial aspects of our overall well-being, and can even reduce the risk of certain diseases like Alzheimer's.
"Sleep involves a range of complex functions associated with memory, our ability to learn, brain development and cleaning, appetite, immune function, and aging," notes The Sleep Revolution.
Opening Our Eyes to More Sleep
During "The Power of Sleep" conference, Arianna explained that her "wake-up call" to needing more sleep occurred when she suddenly collapsed on her desk and broke her cheekbone after an interview she did for CNN. She went from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong, when it turned out that nothing was really "wrong," except for the fact that she was suffering from an acute case of exhaustion, also known as civilizations disease.
Arianna's story in mind, it's clear that awareness for changing our sleeping patterns is needed now more than ever before. As our society and culture continues to rely more on technology and demanding job requirements, individuals are neglecting one of the most crucial human necessities -- sleep.
So, how can we go about getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night? Based on the discussion during "The Power of Sleep" conference, we must first convince ourselves of why sleep actually matters. Once we realize the problem, we can then take certain actions to combat it.
There are simple things that can be done throughout the day and before going to bed that can help improve sleeping habits. Rather than taking melatonin and counting sheep, Arianna explains how promoting good family sleep habits, such as going to bed before midnight, setting a bedtime and taking power naps throughout the day can go a long way when it comes to ensuring a better night's rest (HuffPost even has "nap rooms").
And, while technology comes off as having a negative impact on sleep, some new wearable devices are actually helping people achieve better sleep patterns. During her conference, Arianna enthusiastically mentioned that her favorite wearable device is Jawbone's new UP activity tracker. UP can actually help people improve their lifestyles by providing an understanding of how their diet, sleep and activity impacts their health.
Opening our eyes to the importance of sleep can go a long way to combat the impact that sleep deprivation is having on individuals across the globe. We need to look at not getting enough sleep in the same way as smoking. Just as cigarettes were once considered non-harmful, the lack of sleep has fallen into the same category. Awareness needs to be raised in order for humans to fully understand the impact that sleep has on our health and overall wellness.
To learn more about Sleep and the #SleepRevolution, I recommended reading Arianna Huffington's new book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.