I’m no stranger to lack of sleep. (Goodness knows I’ve blogged about it before.) It’s a good day when I can manage to snag a solid seven hours. Six and a half seems to be about average, and eight is nearly unheard of. My days of sleeping until even 10 a.m. are but a hazy, pre-kid memory. Some mornings I find myself waking up 30 minutes early to get a head start on projects, while some evenings I do myself a disservice by staying up an hour or two later to finish up what I couldn’t get done during regular working hours. Like many working moms, the quiet time after the kids have gone to bed can be some of my most productive hours, though they do eat into the eight hours I’d love to get every night.
My sleeping habits never gave me much pause until I came across this headline: “Half of women face serious health problems due to not getting enough sleep.” A new study has found that 46 percent of women are sleep deprived, an alarming statistic that paves the way for underlying, often overlooked medical conditions – something that only one in four women in the study talk about with their doctors.
Sleep expert and Oxford University Professor John Stradling explains that, “Often women think that feeling exhausted is just part of modern life when in fact it could be something more serious. Remaining untreated leaves women at risk of reduced quality of life and serious health conditions.”
Yikes! I’ve never given much thought to how my lack of sleep could be affecting my health over the long term. Sure, I realize I sometimes drink too much coffee to compensate for the lack of shut eye … isn’t that what all women do who juggle jobs, families, and a household, not to mention everyone’s extracurricular activities? In fact, I sometimes think of a lack of sleep as a badge of honor, a trap many women fall into. It’s almost as if we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking that the price of success is less sleep. I’ve often wondered how women like Martha Stewart and Ariana Huffington survive on the little sleep they admit to getting.
To me, if you voluntarily rise at 4:30 a.m. to start work, your career has taken over your life to an unhealthy degree. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t we determine success by the degree to which we can control our schedules? Shouldn’t we admire the working parent who can get it all done between 9 and 5, spend quality time with the family afterwards, and get a solid seven hours of sleep – with nary a glance at email all the while? (I know, I know, that’s just not gonna happen in today’s hyper-connected world. I’ve found it takes an iron will to put my device down for an extended period of time.)
Perhaps studies like these will push us to take another look at how much sleep we’re getting, and the quality of that sleep. Perhaps it will push us to give that sleep data from our wearable another look. Don’t be afraid to take your concerns to your doctor. In the meantime, good luck getting to sleep – and staying asleep – tonight!