photo: pink sherbet photography on flickr

photo: pink sherbet photography on flickr

Are you getting enough sleep? Most people aren’t.

Here’s a quick and easy way to tell if you’re one of those people:

Are you tired right now?

If the answer is Yes, chances are you’re not getting enough sleep.

Here’s another question:

Do you drink coffee?

If the answer is Yes, chances are you’re not getting enough sleep.

I realize that many of you now have your fingers in your ears, figuratively or literally.

If you’re a dedicated coffee drinker and you don’t want to give it up, you should probably stop reading this post right now. Come back again next week!

photo: raymond brown on flickr

photo: raymond brown on flickr

But for those of you who are tired of being tired all the time, and tired of needing coffee to get you artificially jacked up not-tired, this post is for you!

You may be wondering what made me, a professional Goofball, an expert on sleep.

The answer is simple: I’m not an expert on sleep! I’m a nerd! Nerds read a lot of books, and I’m currently reading an awesome one called Sleep Thieves by Stanley Coren.

I’d highly recommend you read it, but if you don’t want to, I’m going to break down the main message of the book right here:

Humans need way more sleep than they’re getting.

According to the research in Coren’s book, humans actually need about nine to ten hours a night.

Yes, that is what I said.

photo: faith goble on flickr

photo: faith goble on flickr

Back in the 1950’s, a majority of the people in this country slept about nine hours a night. But we’ve become crazed and caffeinated, and now seven hours is the norm.

And how do we make do with seven hours if we need nine or ten? We drink coffee!

Eighty-three percent of adults in the US drink coffee every day. Around the world, coffee consumption is even higher, with countries like Finland, Sweden and Norway topping the list. (The U.S. is twenty-second.)

That’s a whole lot of caffeine being consumed by a whole lot of tired people.

And despite those studies funded by the coffee industry that show that caffeine is good for you, there are lots of studies showing the detrimental effects of caffeine on our health.

Caffeine has been linked to incontinence, infertility, insomnia, indigestion, and headaches. It can worsen the effects of menopause, inhibit collagen production in the skin, interfere with bone ossification, inhibit absorption of vitamins, and increase the amount of sugary beverages consumed, which increases the risk for diabetes. Plus it can cause anxiety and/or depression, leading to a need for medication.

But we drink it because we’re tired. And we can’t get through the day without it.

photo: caitlin regan on flickr

photo: caitlin regan on flickr

Not only that, it’s a vicious cycle. People who drink coffee can’t get as much sleep as they need, because their bodies are at the effects of the drug and they can’t sleep through the night.

But here’s the cool thing: We don’t need caffeine! All we need to do is get enough sleep!

What’s that you’re saying? You don’t have enough time to get that much sleep?

Here’s the other really cool thing. When you get enough sleep every night, you feel awesome. You can get way more done in way less time. It’s the best antidepressant ever. Life seems more fun. People seem nicer. Everything is better.

Yes, I sound all happy and peppy about it, and I’m not on drugs!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

photo: melissa phillippe

I just slept for over nine hours last night. Then I woke up, meditated and took a four-mile hike. With no coffee!

Yes, I’m bragging. And yes, I’m standing on a little bit of a soapbox, but it’s because I feel really strongly about this.

In his book, Coren documents all the accidents that have happened because the person in charge was sleep deprived. (Can you say Chernobyl?)

Coren also has great documentation about the superior mental agility of people who sleep nine or ten hours a night versus those who only sleep eight, the supposed “norm.”

All it takes to become one of those superior-mental-agility folks is to get off coffee and start getting enough sleep!

(For those of you who want more info about caffeine and how to kick the habit, here’s a great article from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition.)

Okay, I realize I may have lost a lot of you by now, but for those who are left:

Thank you for reading! You’re probably someone who already allows yourself to get enough sleep, or you’re about to become one of those people.

Congratulations! And sweet dreams!

photo: chris gladis on flickr

photo: chris gladis on flickr

What is your experience with getting enough sleep (or not)? Share your comments below!

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