I recently had to drive straight from work to East Nashville during rush hour to lead a small group I had committed to. The drive took over an hour in the pouring rain. When I got there, I just sat in my car outside and cried.
My husband was traveling, and I had been doing everything myself at the house for several days. I wasn’t going to get to see my baby at all that night, which made things exponentially worse since it was one of the few days I was actually in town to be with him myself. I was overwhelmed at work with everything we were trying to launch before I go out on maternity leave. And I could go on and on about the list of things that I was down about.
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But the real problem was that I was just tired. None of those things would have been a big deal had I not been so tired. I’d stayed up very late the night before trying to finish a chapter of my book—and paid for it all day. I went from meeting to meeting hanging on by a thread and drinking coffee to keep me going. And that night it all caught up with me. I sat there outside of my friends’ house and cried tears of pure exhaustion.
When our schedule gets packed and we try to crowbar in one more thing, the first thing to go out the window is sleep. We think that sleep is something that can be sacrificed in order to get more time. We go to bed later and get up earlier. But as we know from experience, sleep isn’t optional.
Sleep regulates more than you may realize. Depriving ourselves of sleep leads to heightened levels of anxiety (no kidding!), a weakened immune system, impaired cognition, unhealthy cravings, and a higher risk of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.
This is a real problem, y’all.
In a 2014 study, The National Sleep Foundation found that 67% of Americans who described their sleep as “fair to poor” also reported their health as “fair to poor” and stress level as “high.” Most of us don’t get enough sleep, and we’re paying for it with our health and happiness.
And sometimes, sleep is the best and most simple solution to what you’re struggling with in your life. Being rested gives you a renewed outlook on everything. It improves your attitude and mood and gives you energy to tackle projects and problems. In addition to the obvious benefit of feeling well rested, getting the right amount of sleep (7–8 hours for adults) will improve your memory, balance your metabolism (read: help you lose weight), lower stress and blood pressure, and even add years to your life.
Sleep isn’t optional, and it affects more areas of our lives than we are willing to admit most of the time. The day after that tired night at small group, I felt awesome, had a good attitude, and was much more productive. It was still raining outside, my husband was still out of town, and work was still crazy. There was only one thing that had changed about my situation: I had a good night of sleep. Sleep changes everything.
So stop trying to do more. Just push pause and get some rest. Sometimes the simplest solution is just to get some sleep.