Unlocking the power of sleep

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” — Matthew Walker

A good pillow and night blinders may be the perfect combination for a good night’s sleep.

We’ve all heard the saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” (originally penned by Warren Zevon) as if sleep is a weakness or something to be resisted. However, this belief is far from the truth. Instead, studies by the CDC have proven that sleep deprivation will only bring you closer to death, as well as many chronic diseases and conditions. 

In America we have a “work hard” mentality; the average American works a typical 1,791 hours per year, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Furthermore, to keep such hours, many Americans often sacrifice sleep, with 34% of all Americans working on the weekends, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

Interestingly, these same expectations are not observed in other countries. French law, for example, gives workers “the right to disconnect.” This means that by law it is “illegal for companies to send emails outside of work hours,” explains Scott Stump, staff writer for TODAY.com

Although getting enough hourly sleep is important, our quality of sleep is also key to good rest. Do you love the mornings or thrive at night? As it turns out, we all have personal sleep timers called circadian rhythms, which function as the “master … clock of mammals,” explained Sato Honma and others in The Progress of Brain Research. Matthew Walker, a neuroscience professor of sleep, has also explained that our circadian rhythm is part of our biological blueprint gifted to us by Mother Nature, and that our bodies are designed to work (and sleep) best at certain times during the 24-hour period. 

“Regardless how we feel about our bodies, it is important to learn how to treat them with respect,” stated Kayla Jacobson, UVU’s on-campus dietician. One way we can show this respect is by paying attention to our bodies and granting ourselves high-quality sleep by identifying when these “certain times” are. 

If you are wondering what your circadian rhythm is, there are genetic tests you can take or simple self-assessment questionnaires to help you identify it. Additionally, Walker recommends adhering to a daily sleep schedule, reducing caffeine and nicotine consumption, tampering down on alcohol, and taking a bath for better sleep. Jacobson also suggests frequent exercise. Like nutrition and exercise, sleep is necessary for overall wellness, and it directly affects your emotional and physical health. “As Walker eloquently stated, the best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep. If you are not sleeping well, try some of these suggestions or check out the “Better Sleep Hygiene” article published on the UVU Student Health website.”

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