Sleep is one of the most powerful, effective, and efficient tools for maintaining our health, yet it is also the most underutilized, overlooked, and downright abused. “Hello, my name is Halley, and I’ve been appreciating sleep for sixteen days now.” I don’t say this to make light of recovery programs; in fact it’s quite the opposite! I, and others like me, have become addicted to the always-on, never-sleep mentality.

We tear through life at breakneck speed, all in the name of getting things done. We hit the caffeine tap throughout the day to keep us going, and when we finally consider retiring to bed, we find ourselves tired but wired. We toss and turn, and when we finally drift off, we don’t sleep well. We wake up multiple times during the night, and then the rooster crows and it’s the same routine all over again. Except this time, we carry forward the added stress we never relieved and the added burden on our bodies. The snowball continues to hurtle down the hill.

In January 2014, The Huffington Post published an article by Laura Schocker titled “Here’s a Horrifying Picture of What Sleep Loss Will Do to You. The article revealed some of the more frightening effects sleep deprivation can have on our health:

Increased risk of stroke:

Adults who sleep less than six hours a night have four times the risk of stroke symptoms.

Obesity:

Stress prompts less-than-ideal food choices, including serving larger portions and choosing junk food.

Increased risk of diabetes:

Lack of sleep increases insulin resistance.

Memory loss:

Sleep deprivation can lead to permanent cognitive issues, such as brain deterioration.

  • Brain Health: Adequate Sleep 100%
  • Brain Health: Sleep Deprivation 50%

Osteoporosis:

Studies have linked sleep deprivation to changes in bone density and bone marrow.

Increased risk of cancer:

Six hours of sleep or less has been linked to colorectal cancer and reoccurrence of breast cancer.

Heart disease:

Those who sleep six hours or less a night have a forty-eight percent higher chance of dying from heart disease.

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Chance of Death

Death:

A 2010 study found that men who slept less than six hours a night were four times more likely to die over a fourteen-year period.

Sleep is nature’s balm. Truly. But sleep takes time. You can’t shortcut it without short-circuiting your well-being. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night while school-aged children and teens need closer to ten. If you allow yourself this gift, some pretty magical stuff will happen.

Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., your growth and repair hormones increase in production. This means healing from physical exertion and the damage created by reacting to perceived threats too often during the day. Between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., psychological repair takes place, soothing the effects of stress on our mental well-being.

When we respect our body’s needs by sleeping and taking advantage of these natural boosts in health, we wake up refreshed and reenergized for the day ahead—not to mention we extend our lives.

Make an effort to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Doing so is nonnegotiable if you want good health.

How can you make bedtime your favorite ritual?

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Halley Bock is the author and founder of Life, Incorporated.

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