Recently, I read a news report of a study that said Americans are now nodding off on the job. This news left me feeling confused. Why are we, as a nation, unable to sleep at home and in our own beds? I’m still pondering that question.
But I do know that I have never nodded off behind my desk. I believe in getting eight hours of sleep per night. I know a commitment to a regular bed time seems odd, even counter cultural if you consider that I am in my 20s, a part-time graduate student, and that I hold down a full-time marketing job in which responsibilities are ever increasing.
Instead of hitting the sack, I am told by societal messages that I should be hitting the books, or hitting the laptop, or hitting the treadmill in the wee hours. This outlook has made sleep a luxury, not a necessity. In turn, we have become a nation of groggy, espresso chugging slugs who admit to napping in our cubicles.
I reject the notion that regular sleep is unimportant. Instead, I have come to embrace a belief that eight hours of sleep is fundamental to my life – my happiness and my productivity – and I encourage others to get in bed with Mr. Sandman.
The well rested body is like a well rested field. In agriculture, a field can only produce a healthy crop when it is allowed, by its farmer, to lay fallow. The human body is the same. If we do not take time to rest, if we do not lay fallow, we are less able to give the best of ourselves to the people who matter: our spouses, our children and our colleagues. With each day of sleep deprivation, we become shadows of our better selves.
Trust me. I’ve been to the dark side of sleep deprivation. In college, I developed a caffeine pill habit in order to meet the endless demands of undergraduate life. Day upon day unfurled before me in a fog. But that wasn’t the worst consequence of my over-the-counter drug abuse. Caffeine overload gave me an abnormally fast heartbeat.
Thankfully, that consequence was not permanent. My heart beats slower today because I have learned that I need to go to bed. Although, I understand that most people, even my loved ones, view this simple act with skepticism. At least once a week, when I’m pulling down the quilt and picking up my bedside read, my husband will remark, “I can’t believe it is 9:00 p.m.” His words imply that, by sleeping, we may be missing out on something.
Still, I believe that the only thing we’re missing out on is a lifetime of grogginess. My belief in bedtime is rewarded each morning, when I bound out of bed feeling fantastic, fully present and prepared to give the best of myself to everyone who needs me.
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