Sleep is one of those things that we have to do, but who among us gets enough of it? It doesn’t help that for a long time, we were acting as if needing to sleep was some sign of laziness!

The truth is that everyone needs sleep. Adults are supposed to get at least seven hours and teens need eight, according to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/faq-20057898). But most of us aren’t getting that, and a lack of sleep can really be a drag on our physical and mental health.

What a lack of sleep can do to you

Sleep deprivation can do everything from making you more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease–the plaques associated with it drain from your brain while you sleep–to dinging your immune system and lowering your protection against cancer.

Even driving while you are low on sleep can be as bad as being drunk behind the wheel in terms of your mental state and behavior. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that driving while fatigued makes you less attentive, hurts your ability to make decisions and slows your reaction time (https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/drowsy_driving.html).

On top of all this, the West has some cultural problems when it comes to sleep. We push “sleep less, do more” pretty often. Even if the words “don’t sleep” are never said, self-help gurus, business leaders and other influential people often offer advice that simply doesn’t leave room for enough sleep time.

Matthew Walker, a sleep neurologist with the University of California at Berkeley, recently said in a podcast that we are now with sleeping where we were with smoking decades ago (https://www.sleepdiplomat.com/). Despite all the evidence we had that smoking was bad for you, the public was still not aware and continued to smoke because the message had not been made clear.

As you work throughout the night with your phone in one hand and a cup of coffee in another, you’re probably struggling against the urge to sleep without realizing that you are already in a mental slumber due to the effects of sleep deprivation. It’s not lazy to make sure you sleep eight hours each night, but it is irresponsible to ignore your personal health and try to tackle important things while you are sleep-deprived.

Changing your sleep habits can be difficult, but it’s well worth it given the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Start making more time for your bed–and your health–by adjusting your routine today!

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