Ten years ago, my life was a mess. I stopped exercising. I was eating whatever I could find at the nurse’s station. I was angry, emotional and anxious. And I didn’t know why.
Then, one day, my colleague asked, “Are you having thyroid issues?”
I thought about it, and realized it could be true. But my doctor didn’t agree. She felt I was too stressed and overworked and my lab work agreed. I told her that to compensate for how much work I had on my plate, I started to peel away some things I felt were unnecessary.
“What is unnecessary?” She asked.
“Well first is sleep,” I said. “I know I can sleep when I’m dead. And I’m getting so much more done now.”
I was a doctor, but that didn’t mean I did what was best for me.
Most of us feel like sleep is a luxury, but it truly isn’t.
“People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to make poor food choices and to eat more. They’re also less likely to feel motivated to exercise or stick to their no-smoking plan; more likely to be in a bad mood; and they’re probably less productive at work,” said Dr. Cathy Goldstein, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Centers.
In the short term, sleep deprivation causes significant reductions in performance and alertness. Reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as an hour and a half for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32 percent. Decreased alertness and excessive daytime sleepiness can impair your memory and your cognitive ability—your ability to think and process information.
In the long term, untreated sleep disorders are associated with many serious illnesses like obesity, stroke, heart attacks, Type 2 diabetes and heart failure. It can cause accidents, kill your sex drive, cause depression, wrinkles on your face and dark circles under your eyes, and may even increase your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
When my doctor told me that last bit—the part about Alzheimer’s—I froze.
I never really felt the need to sleep more. I had goals and dreams and I felt like sleep just got in my way. But when the doctor mentioned Alzheimer’s, I remembered how my grandmother died. How her life changed drastically as her Alzheimer’s advanced. I remember how it affected my family. How we struggled with frustration and sadness as we watched helplessly as she deteriorated. She was so exasperated by trying to battle her disease until she wasn’t herself anymore.
After my appointment, I walked out of the office in tears. Before that moment, I was never motivated to change my poor sleep habits. But now I was. I didn’t ever want to go through what my grandmother did or put my family through that.
It was the first time I realized that sleep could either lead to my death or it could lead to my success. And it was my choice which path to take.
Do you sleep as much as you wish you could? Or do you already have some of the symptoms I mentioned earlier? Email me your symptoms! I’d love to know how you’re sleeping and what motivates you to sleep more or less.
Stay tuned next week! If you have trouble sleeping or the symptoms above, I have something that will help.
To your best self,