Sleep is not a luxury.

I didn’t get enough sleep last week. My current project, The Happy Wall, has wrested complete control over my waking hours. Plus work, the holidays, this blog — my brain is bouncing all over the place right now. It’s not bad stress, but it’s stress nonetheless. So I had trouble falling asleep almost all week, and kept having pesky middle-of-the-night wakeups that killed the possibility for a good night’s slumber.

The lack of sleep took its toll. By yesterday, I was feeling cranky and bummed out — not normal for me these days.

But last night I slept well, and I’m feeling back to my well-adjusted, upbeat self again.

Last week was a reminder of how important my sleep routine is when it comes to mental health. and not just for me — the effects of sleep (or lack thereof) are scientific fact.

In our society, sleep is almost considered a luxury. Not getting enough of it is almost a badge of honor … proof that we’re SO BUSY AND IMPORTANT.

“Even one night of sleep deprivation can cause a significant increase in symptoms of anxiety (and) depression in people who don’t have other mental health issues,” sleep specialist Larisa R. Wainer told USA Today. And for people who DO suffer from mental health issues, sleep treatments are often the first course of action.

I accepted long ago that I’m a girl who needs her sleep. Never the type who could function on five hours or rage all night, I’m at my best with nine hours. I don’t use an alarm clock, and my bod is pre-programmed to wake up when I’ve slept nine hours, almost to the minute.

People always look shocked when I tell them this, but the truth is, scientists say between seven and nine hours is the norm.

Yet in our over-scheduled, over-stressed society, people are generally living on a lot less, and they’re probably not aware of the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation. Hint: there are MANY.

Not getting enough sleep can contribute to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, a weakened immune system, even shorter life expectancy.

In other words, not getting enough sleep can kill you early. Crazy, right?

Basically, sleep protects us against most of the major chronic diseases. It’s our chance to recharge, to give our body the rest it needs. When we skimp it, our bods act like a phone with a dying battery.

One week without enough sleep, and I noticed the negative effects on my mental health firsthand. Imagine all the people out there, living with a chronic lack of sleep. What do you think that’s doing to their minds and bodies? To YOUR mind and body?

My point is this: make time for sleep. Whatever else you have to carve out of your schedule, sleep needs to take first priority. And if you need a few tips, here’s my practically foolproof guide for How to Get an Awesome Night’s Sleep.


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