I Wish I'd Slept More
I said that to a friend today.
It's an odd thing to say, really. Especially coming from me. In my younger years, I was definitely of the "I'll sleep when I'm dead" mindset. Go until I can't possibly go any longer. Four to Six hours a night is enough. No reserves. No retreat. No regrets. All that.
I was quite wrong.
Good and consistent sleep is vital for mental, physical, and emotional health. Poor and inconsistent sleep can make you fat and cause anxiety. Fitful sleep is linked to depression and other mental health disorders. A good night's sleep is connected to increased productivity and concentration - as well as peak performance in both physical and mental tasks.
Have a test tomorrow? Don't cram. Take a nap.
I wish I had slept more in my younger days when my children were young and my life was full of relationally oriented work. I wonder if I would have been a better Dad? A better husband? A better leader? A better co-worker? Could something as simple as a good night's sleep have prevented the heartache of conflict?
With a rested mind and body, it's much easier to respond to charged situations with more maturity and grace. I've found the following to be true about my own sleep patterns.
With more sleep, I act with greater emotional intelligence.
With less sleep, I tend act with far less. This means that when I get into high stress relational situations without the right amount of sleep, it's easy to respond with unnecessary emotion and to say hurtful things.
With more sleep, my problem solving skills are much higher.
A lack of sleep causes my brain to feel numbed and drugged. It's more difficult to concentrated and hard to focus. Sleep literally makes us smarter. The ability to problem solve when moving through relational difficulty is invaluable.
More sleep means a greater capacity for creativity.
Less sleep means a constant mental struggle. It's difficult to put ideas and sentences together.
Sleep improves work. Working instead of sleeping is counter-productive and potentially destructive. Most importantly, lack of sleep doesn't just affect me. When I am under-slept, I am at the crux of possibility to destroy relationships I care deeply about.
So, sleep must now be central to the self-care plan. I could have been more effective by simply getting more sleep and not stretching my neurosystem so thin. Conflict and its consequences could have been potentially avoided with a nap.
I'm done with consistent 4-6 hour nights. 7-9 hours is my new goal.
To my younger readers, who think themselves indestructible and believe a few hours a night is enough, know this:
You are wrong.
You are not the exception.
You will do things you'll regret because of the lack of sleep.
You will be far more effective at nearly everything you do with consistent rest.
I wish I'd slept more.