The University is officially on summer recess, and grades are in (don’t forget that professors end up working a few extra days beyond the end of the semester to grade all final exams and projects, enter grades into the system, and deal with any outstanding issues). That means that even I can finally take a deep breath and start acting like an actual human being who does normal things like not working 6-7 days a week and actually sleeping. So it seems fitting that I’ve been reading The Sleep Revolution by Ariana Huffington this week.
The Sleep Revolution is Huffington’s second book. Her first book Thrive is about general well being and getting unplugged. It’s also a great read that you should check out. But The Sleep Revolution focuses in on what Huffington considers the most critical part of taking care of yourself: sleeping.
As she notes in the book, our current culture is obsessed with the fear of missing out–and she writes that for most of us, this fear starts in college. The trilemma of “good grades, a social life, and sleep–pick two because you can’t have all three” can become a huge part of college life. It often seems impossible to split your time efficiently between studying, friends, and still have time for sleep. Plus, for many traditional college students, this is a point in life where you feel just a bit invincible: who needs sleep when you feel like you can function just as well on 4 hours a night as on 8.
But as Huffington notes in the book, racking up a big sleep debt can have some pretty intense consequences on everything from your ability to make decisions to your ability to perform on tests. Stay awake for more than 24 straight hours, you are in the same state as if you were legally drunk. But, take a sleeping pill and you could be facing a whole slew of scary side effects (think extreme sleep walking).
What is fascinating about sleep is that scientists still do not really know why we get tired or why we sleep. But, as Huffington details in the book, science is beginning to discover how critical sleep is for our health, our well being, and our happiness. Our brains do some pretty nifty things while we are asleep.
I track my sleep by using a Fitbit, and generally my sleep log tells me that I do not get enough sleep. The reasons usually vary from being disrupted by loud noises (I’m looking at you train conductor who blasts the horn at 4:30 every morning) to not falling asleep early enough (I’d like to thank Netflix continuous play for making this possible). This book was a bit of a wakeup call for me to start taking this lack of (good) sleep more seriously. So, I’ll be buying some ear plugs and I’ll be trying to get into the habit of reading a real physical book at night instead of binge watching The Office.
While the book does not present a truly in depth series of practical advice on how to overcome insomnia, it does do a really great job of exploring why we do not get enough sleep and what the consequences of skimping on sleep are.
So, embrace your summer break (even if it’s just a week before you start a job or internship, or summer classes), kick back, and make up some of your sleep debt!