Q: Wait. There’s a “World Sleep Day?”
Yes indeed, there absolutely is, and it’s coming up right away! March 18th, 2022 to be precise. It may not have the recognition that some other “days” enjoy, but let me tell you, it’s a bit of a big deal to us in the sleep expert community. It typically falls right after the World Sleep Congress, which is a massive symposium of sleep experts, currently in its 16th year, where the top minds in the field get together for 6 full days of scientific sessions and networking. It’s like Coachella for sleep nerds like myself.
Q: What’s the point of World Sleep Day?
The point of World Sleep Day is awareness. Whoa, wait! Before you click the “X” on your browser tab there, let me assure you, I know we throw the whole “awareness” term around like cheap confetti nowadays.
But the fact is, in this case anyways, awareness really is the vital component, because it’s not like we’re powerless to do anything about our sleep habits. The majority of people are capable of sleeping well! We just tend to put sleep so low on our priority list that bedtime ends up getting pushed further and further back, even though we know we’re going to end up not feeling or performing our best because of it.
Feeling groggy or irritable, or just not functioning at a high level, are really the least of the issues that a lack of proper sleep can bring on. In 2014, the CDC reported that adults who regularly got less than 7 hours of sleep a night were significantly more likely to report several chronichealthconditions than people who regularly slept 7 hours or more. Those conditions include heart attacks, coronary heart disease, stroke, asthma, COPD, cancer, arthritis, depression, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes.
These aren’t just minor irritations. The conditions in that list that won’t kill you can seriously impact your quality of life. Add the heightened risk of potentially fatal health issues to the overall lousy feeling of fatigue and irritability you experience when you don’t sleep well, and it’s amazing that we place sleep so low on our list of priorities.
As a sleep consultant, however, I have to say that I understand where the conflict arises. Working with the parents of young children, as well as having kids of my own, I understand just how precious that time can be after your little ones go to bed. It’s essentially your only opportunity to reconnect with your partner, watch some grown-up TV, or just have a little time to yourself, and it’s brief, and it’s wonderful, and in the moment, it just tends to seem more valuable than sleep.
So believe me, I’m not suggesting that your desire to stay up a little late and just be a grown up for a while is selfish or irrational. Far from it, I think it’s absolutely vital to your well-being, but I think it’s important that everyone knows the facts about how sleep deprivation can affect them when making that decision. And I also think it’s important for people to be aware (there’s that word again) of how great they can feel when they get the sleep they need!
So this Friday, March 18th, 2022, I’m asking you to consider taking just that one day and night, and try a few changes that can potentially improve your sleep. It doesn’t have to be anything major. Maybe plan to get outdoors for a walk in the early evening, avoid caffeine after 3:00 PM, turn off the TV and put your phone away for a couple of hours before bedtime, or take a nice warm bath before bed.
Or, if you’re looking to celebrate world sleep day in style, maybe pull the trigger on that new mattress you’ve had your eye on, or spoil yourself with a new set of sheets.
I’m confident that once you’ve made even a small change in your sleep routine, it will have a positive impact, and hopefully one that will lead to a better night’s sleep. When you get up the next day, take note of how much better you feel, how positive your outlook is, or how much more patient you are when dealing with your kids. My hope is that the effects will lead you to remember what a huge payoff is waiting for you when you get the sleep you need, and that will encourage you to continue to make sleep a priority in your daily life.
So yeah! Happy National Sleep Day everyone! There are no greeting cards for it, there are no traditions surrounding it, and it will likely pass with very little fanfare or publicity, but it might just be the most important night of the year for making a positive change in your life.