Go the heck to sleep

Good morning — how did you sleep? Hopefully at least pretty well, but I’m guessing not as long as you might have liked. I don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to getting enough sleep. It’s probably a safe bet that you don’t either. Especially when the National Sleep Foundation suggests those age 18-25 need 7-9 hours per night.

Emerging adults are busy. We’re tired. Many of us are overworked. Most of us have to make time for things we enjoy doing, which often means sacrificing sleep. College in particular is notorious for ruining any good sleep patterns us young adults might have been holding onto. Ridiculous homework problems, studying for exams, and writing papers — not to mention actually doing fun things — all pull away at our time until there’s not enough left for a good night’s rest. Junior year of college, I would get back from work at 4:30 in the morning, just in time to say hi to my roommate as she headed out the door on the way to her own job. Or I would get up between 5 and 6 to finish an assignment just as my boyfriend was texting me goodnight after finally finishing his homework. Of course these are extremes, but they’re not anomalies.

Staying up late and getting up early can feel like the only way to fit everything in; and sometimes, that’s true. But it’s not sustainable, and I am slowly being forced to admit that getting extra (read: enough) sleep at least helps with almost every problem I encounter during the day.

The obvious is just being tired. Sleep kinda helps with that. (However, this actually only works if I have a consistent pattern of at least close to enough sleep, and also don’t make a habit of oversleeping. For me, the ideal is about 7.5 hours.)

Appetite and energy. If I get insanely little sleep, all I want to do the following day is eat. But if I’ve been getting poor sleep for a while, it actually throws my whole appetite out of whack and I don’t eat enough. Following that, my body metabolizes food better and actually feels more capable when I get adequate sleep consistently.

Skin. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve struggled with acne for a long time. There are lots of things I do to try and mitigate it: drink lots of water, wash my face every morning and night, wearing makeup infrequently, etc. But I’ve realized that even if I am religious about doing all of those other things, getting too little sleep will override it all and cause me to break out. Which sucks. But it means that there is a straightforward, even if not easy, way to help.

Mood. It’s not a secret that people are cranky when they’re tired, and virtually no one is entirely immune to it. But prolonged seasons of poor sleep can aggravate more serious mood imbalances, and make it extra difficult to deal with things like depression and anxiety.

I fully realize and admit that sometimes more sleep isn’t a realistic option, or that something else takes priority. But your body can’t function on emergency mode forever. Different people need different amounts of sleep, and there are tools like the ones offered by sleep.org to figure out what works best for you. So whether it’s 6 or 8 hours a night, taking naps or going to bed early, it’s crazy what a difference a good night’s sleep can make.

Getting enough sleep may not make mornings fun, but for me at least it makes the day way better. Feel free to share thoughts in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and I hope your day is restful!

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