Ryan Cole writing on sleep…

When I was younger, I had a theory. I believed that I was entirely responsible for my own emotions. Basically – no matter what happened to me – events wouldn’t determine how I felt. It was my own reactions to those stimuli that would make the difference. In other words, the key to happiness was simply being happy. The key to relaxation was determining to be relaxed.

It’s a good theory. I still believe in it, even if age and diminishing flexibility have made me more susceptible to event-driven emotions. However – as I’ve been known to do – I took this good theory, and went a bridge too far with it.

Specifically, I decided that if my emotions are just a state of mind, maybe the same is true of other things as well. Like being tired. Isn’t that just a flood of hormones hitting the brain? Knowing that, can’t we ignore it – the same way one can ignore pain, if necessary?

Well, kind of…but it’s not a good idea.

During times of short-term stress or need, it can be useful to put aside physical reactions and fight through them. If you’re in the middle of running a marathon, you’ve got to push past fatigue and quiet screaming muscles. What your body doesn’t know – but you do – is the ordeal will soon be over, and you can take all the rest and recovery you need. But, if you make a habit out of ignoring physical signals, you’ll only get yourself into trouble. Our bodies have spent millions of years crafting the perfect warning signs – and you’re a moron if you ignore them for any extended length of time.

Well, I was just a moron again.

Two weeks ago, I spent a week at the beach. It’s something of an annual family reunion and – since I’m moving soon – my last chance to see a lot of relatives for a while. So, there was no way that I’d miss it.

But, at the same time, I’ve taken up all sorts of new responsibilities and  I’m in process of fixing up my house for rent (or sale), packing up (or selling) my every possession, and preparing for to move. In other words, my plate is very full. Add in a week of socializing with family, and I had to work both early mornings and late nights to keep up. Something had to give. And that something was sleep.

When I was in my 20s, I might have been able to get away with a week of minimal shut-eye. But now, no way.

Little surprise, by the time I got home I was nursing a bad cold that nearly spun out of control.

When it comes to health, there are really only three things you need to worry about: Diet, exercise, and sleep.

I’m pretty good about eating nutritionally. I exercise about five times during a normal week – and squeezed in a few beach runs at the ocean.

But sleep often gets short shrift. It shouldn’t. It’s at least as important as the other two. In fact, without proper sleep, the other two basically become meaningless.

Without sleep, your body can’t recover and rebuild muscle after exercise. Your hormones go all out of whack without sleep – scrambling your nutritional balance, and upping chemicals like cortisol, which increases stress and encourages your body to pack on pounds.

I’m from Baltimore, so Tom Brady isn’t my favorite person. But I respect his work ethic – and for him, sleep is the most important part of his training regimen. He never – ever! – gets less than eight hours a night. Preferably nine. I’m in a busy stretch right now. But I don’t generally have to fly down to Brazil to watch my wife open the Olympics, all while sticking to a pretty insane training and football regimen. If Tom Brady can find eight hours every night without fail, we all can.

And we all should. My wife might find my voice a little sexier now but, in the end, you lose more time dealing with the consequences of missed sleep than you would have spent just getting enough sleep to start with. So, once more, I’m rededicating myself to cordoning off a bloc for sleep. I’d recommend you do the same.

And if your life feels too crazy, too hectic, to even consider getting enough sleep…maybe it’s time for a fresh approach.

We can help with that too.

P.S. Discover how you can enjoy a more laidback, authentic, independent way of life in Truth & Plenty. Sign up below to have it delivered – free of charge – to your email inbox.

Image: ©iStock.com/kasayizgi

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