When you think your quality of life – your standard of health, comfort, and happiness – most people frequently take into account how much they are able to do or get done. For instance, if someone is faced with an illness or injury and are now unable to do simple things they used to be able to do, like walking up a flight of stairs or taking care of themselves, you would say their quality of life is suffering – in direct correlation to what can no longer be done. 

Today, we are going to talk about the importance of NOT doing anything in its active, physical form, and its benefit to all levels of quality of life – I’m talking about sleep.

“There will be plenty of sleep once you are dead” – Benjamin Franklin

A cultural norm for many in the United States is that of an overworked, passionate individual that gives everything to their job, sacrificing health, family, and happiness in the pursuit of…well, happiness (be it money, power, etc.). Sleep? That’s for the less dedicated. Perhaps you are a night-shift worker, party animal, or night-owl. To you, less sleep = getting more done. And for some, you don’t have a choice: you are the worrier. The stress-case. The one who can’t get to sleep because of the inability to shut down everything else going on around you, or because your body won’t let you – in the case of a sickness, chronic stress, or an autoimmune disease. Regardless of the cause, little sleep has become the norm. The question is, what impact is this less-sleep having on your health?

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin**

According to research, 30% of the adult population report at least one symptom of insomnia, including trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or getting good quality sleep. So what? Ruben Naimen, in his fantastic piece, The Cure for Insomnia is to Fall in Love with Sleep Again for Aeon Magazine writes,
The deleterious impact of chronic sleep loss on daily life is no longer news. Poor sleep significantly compromises our productivity and safety. And it seriously undermines our physical and mental health by triggering chronic inflammation in the brain and body. Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders, autoimmune illnesses, diabetes, obesity, cancer and depression.

The benefits of sleep on your body are also staggering. Sleep is when your body makes the most gains for your health and fitness goals. Not to mention all of the restorative processes that take place for your brain and the rest of your body. 

“The sleeping fox catches no poultry.” – Benjamin Franklin

We can do everything right. We can take the right supplements, have the right workout routine, move more, eat a nutrient-dense diet and stay away from processed, packaged goods. We can even handle stress appropriately. But if we don’t have good, quality sleep, we will ultimately fail at our health goals. Can’t lose the weight? As Robb Wolf says in Wired to Eat, “Almost all the folks who struggle with losing fat have some kind of problem with their sleep.”
Fixing a sleeping problem can be as simple as acting like a fox: getting up early.

Circadian Rhythm plays a huge role in the success or failure of your sleeping self. Resetting that rhythm could be the key to gaining more restful, quality sleep when you need it. Nighttime “hygiene” practices may need to be tweaked (or introduced). For starters, try less light or different light in the hours before bed. The artificial light is tricking your body to think it’s still the middle of the day.

Above all else, develop a routine.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you stick to it as if it was your morning routine. Keeping your bedtime strict, the type of food you eat (or lack thereof) before bed, and seeking out solitude and calm in the final hours of the day. Perhaps even an alternating hot/cold shower to help you get sleepy. As important as morning routines are to your sanity, nighttime routines maximize your sleeping efforts.
Don’t sacrifice your quality of life or the health gains you are currently making for a few extra hours for leisure or for work. They aren’t worth it, and your body will thank you. You may even surprise yourself by losing those extra couple of pounds.
Further Reading:
**  Yes, there is a dichotomy here. Benjamin Franklin’s first quote at the start of the article stands in contrast to the one at the beginning of this section, and is probably the one you’ve heard the most. Why? It justifies the hard-work stance most of us take for not sleeping. And yet even Ben Franklin himself allocated 7 hours solely to sleep in his famous planner, something he regularly graded himself on. The importance of sleep was not lost to him, even if he has helped fuel the anti-sleep fire.

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