Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Get Your Sleep

Adequate sleep is one of the most important aspects of good mental and physical health. When I was teaching, I saw so many students who just couldn't concentrate because they were sleep deprived. Many were able to keep up, but that's about it. They could have been much better students had they been getting proper sleep. Many actually fell asleep during class and of course, I had to wake them, fully realizing they probably needed the sleep.

I know what it's like to be sleep deprived. I slept very little in high school and college because I thought it cut into my study time. As a teacher, I probably averaged 3-4 hours of sleep a night during the week. There were papers to check, tests to write, lesson plans to prepare, forms and reports to write. None of this could be done during the school day because that time was spent teaching. I tried to catch up on sleep over the weekends, but that didn't help completely. Eventually, this took its toll on me. I was always tired and because I wasn't accomplishing what I thought I should (because of tiredness), I was stressed. The stress led to an increase in cortisol which led to an increase in weight. Over the years I eventually became obese, increasing the amount of tiredness, stress, cortisol, and weight gain. The weight gain led to fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, and diabetes. The sleep apnea meant I was getting even less sleep than I thought I was. More tiredness...more stresses...more weight...more health risks...more tiredness... It was a vicious cycle that no one should have to suffer. I did exercise some, but it was sporadic. I just didn't feel I could take the time to exercise because I had so much to do and I was so tired and nothing was getting accomplished as I thought it should.

Since retiring, the change has been amazing. It's taken two years for me to feel like my old self, but I think I'm almost there. With the time and ability to sleep, the stress is gone, the blood pressure is down, the diabetes is under control without medication, the liver enzymes are back to normal, and the weight is down by 60 pounds. I'm not completely healthy yet, but I'm getting there.

I relate all this, because it shows the importance of sleep. Sleep deprivation will take its toll on your health. Websites I've looked at say that school age children (6-10 years old) need 10-11 hours of sleep per night, adolescents (11-18 years old) need about 9.5 hours, and adults need an average of 8 hours per night.

Parents (and schools and employers) should make sure children are getting the proper amount of sleep. I've seen parents with small school age children in the grocery store at 11 pm. I've seen schools schedule activities on school nights that last until 11 or 12. I've seen employers work high school students until 10 pm four or five nights a week, fully knowing these students still have to go home and do homework. It's not fair to the child to deprive them of sleep and it's setting them up for a variety of health problems, as well as an inability to do their best in school.

Check out these websites for more information:

No comments:

Post a Comment