PSA: Sleep is Not Optional

It seems like I’ve long struggled with sleep. Either I haven’t had enough of it, or it was the wrong kind. I’m either getting way too much, or way too little. Consistency is just not my strong suit.

Lately, as part of this “get back on my feet” effort, I have been very focused on improving my physical health. I’m increasingly sold on the incredible interconnection between our bodies and our minds, and becoming more and more determined to better my physical health in an effort to make a greater leap in improvement in my overall mental health, by extension.

Recently I tried grouping my various projects visually in order to prioritize, and I came up with this bunch:

I posted this photo to my facebook private group, which is where some of my closest friends are giving me running encouragement as I tackle my toughest challenges. Ironically, however, I stayed up almost all night sorting and prioritizing my goals, and posted the photo in the wee hours of the morning. Here is my friend Jill Manty’s response:

Jill is a wise lady, and it made me sit back a bit and think. I knew that staying up wasn’t the best idea, but I was hyperfocused on my task. It never occurred to me that lack of sleep might be one of my biggest issues, and yet it was so low priority as to not even make it onto a card, until my friends poked me about it. They’re great at spotting my blind spots. Really.

I used to like the phrase, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Now, not so much.

Even after that reminder, the other night I was so excited about a recent development in my life that I when woke up in the middle of the night, I sent a friend an email about the whole story instead of waiting until the more usual morning hours. He seemed happy to hear my news, but he also teased me about the time stamp on my email. He said:

“Remember: sleep isn’t optional. Miss 3:21am email.”

It made me laugh, but it’s also really made me reflect. My friends are right. Sleep isn’t optional. It’s a key piece of our health that we too often take for granted.

I am as careful as I can be as a parent with my kids health, and especially as school has started up again, I am guarding their sleep time carefully. I want my kids to have better sleep habits than I did as a child. I remember once reading a book once, called The 7’o clock Bedtime, that helped convince me that there’s absolutely no harm in putting the little ones in bed long before they’d prefer to be there. I think a lot of kids in our society are as sleep deprived and rushed as their parents, and I worry about the consequences for all of us.

I have not taken the same care with my own sleep. So with this post, I challenge YOU. Figure out what a good night’s sleep is to you, and do everything you can to protect that space from intrusion. See what it does for your health.

I’ll do the same, starting with this month. At the end of the month if I still remember, I’ll update on how it went. I’m participating in Healthmonth this month, and playing on a team. If you’re seeing this in September 2012, it’s not too late to join us. Just create an account, and send me a request. We’ll get healthier together.

A quick internet search for the phrase “Sleep is not optional” turned up this post, and it’s good to see that A) I didn’t accidentally steal that phrase from someone obvious (always a worry 😉 and B) I’m not the only one on this track, by any means.

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