Welcome to the first installment of our self-care miniseries! In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, sometimes it’s hard to remember that there is no movement if there is no “us.” It is imperative that we take care of our physical and mental well-being. While one may think that s/he is sabotaging his or her goals by taking a break every now and again, he’s actually helping himself in the long run. Without self-care, you can negatively affect your health, career, self-esteem, relationships, and your goals without even realizing it! For this reason, MICC will take some time this week to tackle some practical ways to take care of you in this small but necessary series.
We’re going to kick off this week by starting small: get rest.
This always necessary but often neglected task can disrupt your entire equilibrium and leave you confused as to why you’re not performing at your peak. More and more Americans today are suffering from sleep deprivation. More specifically, Millennials tend to have a feeling of invincibility among themselves, “powering” through their college and early career years as “#teamnosleep” as their mantra. Meanwhile, their productivity plummets and effectiveness deteriorates, and their health takes a hit.
Some may be reading and think, “I only need a few hours of sleep every day; I manage fine.” However, sleep deprivation does impact your body, even in small ways every day. If you’re an individual who suffers from sleep deprivation, you may notice these symptoms on a daily basis:
- Accident prone
- Memory problems
- Micro sleep (which can cause problems like falling asleep behind the wheel)
- Cognitive dysfunction (including creativity and problem-solving skills)
- Hallucinations (of various levels)
Do any of these feel familiar? These symptoms don’t include the decrease in body functionality. You can also suffer from depression, heart disease, cold or flu, weight gain, and a host of other problems. In fact, a lack of sleep for one night can elevate your blood pressure throughout the next day. Without sleep, your brain is unable to rest and renew, and leaves you ill-prepared to take on the day.
So what exactly what happens during sleep that helps you revitalize your brain and body? The sleep cycle is divided into five stages:
- This is light, twilight sleep where you can be easily awakened. Your eyes move slowly behind your eyelids and the cycle is often characterized by muscle contractions and falling sensations.
- In this stage, eye movement stops and brain wave activity slows. There are only small bursts of rapid brain activity.
- This is the beginning stage of slow-wave sleep. In this and the following stage, your body restores its tissues and your brain starts deleting useless information. It is also considered “deep sleep,” and it’s hard to wake a person up from this sleep.
- In this stage, you brain almost exclusively produces slow-waves.
- This is REM sleep, and the main dreaming phase of sleep. This is believed to help creativity, memory, and complex learning.
Don’t think you have time to give it a rest? You likely do. The National Sleep Foundation reports that short naps (even as short as 20-30 minutes) provides “significant improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.” I, personally, am a huge fan of the classic midday nap. If I wake up by nine in the morning, by one in the afternoon I’m ready for my midday slumber. The length of the nap can depend on what has to be done that day, but Sara Mednick, Ph.D., a sleep researcher at the University of California, Riverside, believes that you can make naps work for you. She even has a nap wheel on her website, so you can calculate the best time to take a nap. She puts them in 4 categories:
- 20-minute nap (for energy and alertness): two minutes of stage one sleep and 18 of stage two.
- 35-minute nap (energy, alertness and mind-clearing): two minutes of stage one, 23 of stage two and 10 of slow-wave.
- 60- to 75-minute nap (all the above, plus a creativity boost): two minutes of stage one, 28 of stage two, 25 of slow-wave and five to 20 of REM.
- 90-minute nap (the “perfect nap” because it mimics the balance of stages you get during nocturnal sleep): five minutes of stage one, 35 of stage two, and 25 each of slow-wave and REM. Studies suggest that (in already well-rested adults) this can give you the same benefits as a seven-hour night of sleep, Mednick writes.
All in all, if you can spare 30 minutes, you can catch at least a short nap to get your gears turning again. Another added benefit to sleeping during the day is that if you have a later nap, you can work a little later into the night without risking a plummet in productivity and creativity. And if you’re like me, those late nights tend to bring the most results.
Are you convinced yet? This week, let’s commit to trying to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. If not, try to get that nap in during the day so you can be at your best. I promise you it will yield some positive results, and your body will thank you. In the meantime, join me here tomorrow for our next installment in our Self Care series. See ya tomorrow!