The Astonishing Truth about Sleep

Recently, I had a short conversation with a co-worker at my day job. We chatted for about 3, maybe 4 minutes. But by the end of the conversation, he had the look of astonishment on his face. I could tell that our discussion was hitting him at just the right moment in his life and it was waking him up like splashing cold water on his face. The conversation went something like this:

Me: So, how’s your day going?

Him: Pretty good, I guess. I’m a little tired.

Me: Still not getting enough sleep?

Him: No, I don’t think it’s that. I mean, I probably should be getting more sleep, but I’m just not in the mood to be here.

Me: Honestly, I still think you’re not getting enough sleep. How much sleep do you get on average?

Him: I guess about 6 hours a night.

Me: Yeah, that’s really not enough. You probably don’t realize what effect not getting enough sleep is having on you. Did you know that when you don’t get enough sleep, your body chemistry doesn’t reset properly–and this includes all the feel–good chemicals as well as those that regulate alertness and your ability to stay focused while at work?

Him: Really?

Me: Yeah. When you’re consistently not getting enough sleep, you also take a hit on your attitude. You may not get depressed or anything, but that can happen too. Even if you don’t get depressed, you’re more likely to be dissatisfied with how you’re day is going and more pessimistic in general. You could even experience symptoms similar to various forms of mental illness, not to mention physical illnesses and a weakened immune system. In fact, if you go too long without sleep, you will die!

People don’t realize just how affected you can be when you’re not getting enough sleep. Ever have those days when you feel like you’re in a fog and you just don’t have any energy, or you feel like you’re moving in slow motion? Even your thoughts can seem to be lethargic. Well, when all that’s going on, you’re going to tend to have trouble solving problems and you might even be in a bad mood. You’ll be more susceptible to stress and even other people’s moods are more likely to affect you because you’re not fresh, alert and resilient, all due to a consistent lack of sleep.

Him: Seriously? So, if I’m having a bad day, you’re saying that it might really just be because I’m not getting enough sleep?

Me: Absolutely! And it can be even worse than that. Very often, when people feel like their lives aren’t going in a good direction or they feel like all the joy in life is totally gone, it could very well be the cumulative effect of months or even only a couple weeks without getting enough sleep. Believe it or not, something so simple as just getting one more hour of sleep per night can radically transform your life. Now, don’t get me wrong, it won’t happen overnight. But even after just a few days, you might start feeling like the fog has lifted and you might be aware–maybe for the first time in a long time–that the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day outside. You might notice that you’re more alert, better able to solve problems, or like you’re really on your game. You may notice a boost in your creativity and just be in an all-around cheery mood.

[At this point, he was half-smiling, his eyebrows were raised, and he had an astonished look on his face. He literally looked like he was glowing.]

Him: Hmm, I never thought about that! I just thought I didn’t like my job.

Me: Look, I know you have other career ambitions, but you chose to be here for a reason. So take advantage of it; absorb everything you can from this job and use that moving forward. Don’t just show up half glazed-over. This is your life. Don’t sleep-walk through it. Getting more sleep means more than just being alert at work. It means actually taking an interest in your life…showing up for your life. There are far too many people who are checked out of life. They get a job they don’t like and feel like it’s not worth the effort to do their best. Add to that not getting enough sleep and that starts to effect more than just your job, it effects your motivation, even for pursuits outside of your job. Years can go by before you realize that something is wrong, and I’m telling you, the first step is to wake up!

Start getting more sleep so that your brain is functioning on all cylinders. Start taking an interest in the choices you make. Don’t live your life on auto-pilot, letting precious time go by. If you’re not paying attention, you may miss opportunities for improving your life. Don’t assume that just because you feel like your life is off track, that there’s nothing you can do about it. After all, it’s YOUR life that you’re living…or NOT living.

Him: Wow! I feel like I should be paying you for this!

Me: Well, this is only good information if you USE it. You can start by getting one more hour of sleep per night–shoot for seven hours, but eight is better. Although, you’re in a habit of not getting enough sleep, so it might not be easy to break. You’re going to have to do a little planning and tweak your plan as you go. But make it a priority.

Him: Believe me, I’m going to!

Me: Okay, great! It’s about time you show up for your own life. I’ll be checking in with you. If you run into any trouble, let me know and I’ll help you come up with a solid strategy.

Him: Yes, I definitely will. Thank you so much!

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