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The importance of sleep

I am a freelance journalist dedicated to travelling and keeping fit and healthy. A tragic (but proud) cat lady, I believe in the importance of staying strong, active and healthy in the most practical ways possible. I’m also committed to laughing every day, even if that means at myself…which is usually the case. Robyn Box

Sleep. It’s a glorious thing. We love it. We can’t get enough of it. We’ll be furious at whichever person who interrupts it on a Saturday morning. So why, come midnight on Tuesday, are we still up watching Ellen reruns, reading the travel section from last week’s newspaper, or dedicating huge amounts of concentration on a serious game of Words With Friends?

Seems our love of multi tasking to an inch of our lives might be great for our careers/bank balances/social life, but it’s starting to take its toll on our health. Why, you say? So glad you asked! Basically, we’re not getting enough sleep, and it’s starting to show – in us as individuals and as a community. 

According to the Sleep Health Foundation (SHF), around 24% of Aussies suffer from fatigue or exhaustion several times a week, while around 35% of us wake up feeling unrefreshed most mornings. But lack of sleep isn’t just making us look like old bags of stale rubbish; further research has found lack of quality sleep actually impacts our economic health. 
The SHF found the economic cost of sleep disorders in Australia tops the $6.2 billion dollar mark. Billions of dollars lost simply because we’re trying to do too much? That’s insane! That’s, like, two gondola rides in Venice. Madness!

The catch in our jam-packed lifestyles is that we feel fine. You got what, five hours sleep last night? You feel ok? Got to work? Made lunches? Pondered over what Catherine Zeta Jones sees in Michael Douglas? Yes? Yes.

So what gives? Why is it SO important that we’re getting enough sleep when we can function just fine on hardly any?

I don’t mean to be a downer, but you’re actually not functioning ok. The Office of Road Safety WA recently estimating up to 30% of fatal road accidents are due to fatigue. And you know who’s fatigued? You are. Actually, we all are. Why? Because we insist on throwing our healthy lifestyle out of balance by not resting. Not enough exercise, not enough healthy eating, too much alcohol and not enough sleep – four punches in the face of a ‘balanced lifestyle’.

The time has come for all of us to accept that getting the right amount of sleep is part of healthy living. Without it, we’re not giving our bodies the time it needs to regenerate, and that means more than just baggy eyes and a grouchy demeanour.

“Sleep deprivation can lead to mood issues such as anxiety and depression,” says HBF’s Dr Duncan Jefferson, also suggesting it can lead to lack of concentration and effective learning.

Is that what you want? No? Then read on.

“Seven hours is reasonable for an adult, with no more than around nine hours a night necessary.”

Seven hours. You can’t manage seven hours? Stop it – you’re being silly. Of course you can. You know why? Because you can’t afford not to. If you want to get the most out of every minute of every day then you owe it to your mind and your body (and your family) to allow it adequate recovery time.

If that means sneaking in a 30 minute snooze during the day, then do it. If it means the washing has to wait until the morning then let it wait! Sure, you only get today once – but you also need time to recover from it.

So do yourself, your family, the community and the economy a favour...and go to bed. STAT.

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