Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign has proven to be one of the most effective campaigns in advertising history. The side effect of this campaign, however, may be that we have become high-octane, stressed out, over-achievers who know how to get it done…except when it comes to getting sufficient rest. Today’s excerpt will, hopefully, help you find balance.

According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation (link is external) (NSF), over two-thirds of women associate their sleep problems with stress. Yet, when pressed for time, over half of the women polled said that sleep is the first thing they give up. Unfortunately, this is an all too common example of the short term gain, long term pain philosophy that is becoming more and more common in our overscheduled lives.

Stress leads to a loss of sleep and a loss of sleep leads to an increase in stress, which can become a vicious cycle. Sleep is a basic human need, and when we don’t get enough of it, just about every aspect of our functioning is affected. We move slower. We’re less productive. We’re more irritable. We make poor decisions. We forget things. And all of these problems are exacerbated as we lose more and more sleep.

Excessive sleep loss has been linked to mood disorders, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, substance abuse, obesity, impaired judgment, reckless behavior, and increased accidents at home, work, and on the road. In fact, in the most severe cases of sleep deprivation, hallucinations and paranoid delusions can develop. The worst case scenario is death. The point is … if something has to get bumped from your to-do list, the last thing it should be is sleep.

Why is sleep so important? Because it’s the only block of time in our hectic lives that our bodies have a chance to recharge. Although our bodies are resting (hopefully) while we sleep, our brains aren’t. In fact, the brain is very active during sleep.

Sleep is the time when our bodies and brains replenish themselves. This gets accomplished through what sleep experts call our “sleep architecture,” a relatively predictable pattern that occurs in ninety minute cycles while we sleep. It involves an alternating pattern of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep.

According to the NSF, “REM sleep is an active sleep where dreams occur, breathing and heart rate increase and become irregular, muscles relax and eyes move back and forth under the eyelids.” It’s characterized by a high level of mental and physical activity where your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing are very similar to what they are like when you’re awake. REM sleeps accounts for about twenty-five percent of our sleep time and it first occurs about ninety minutes after you fall asleep. It is the REM stage of sleep that provides energy to your brain and body and helps you perform throughout the day.

Source: “Has Sleep and Stress Become a Vicious Cycle in Your Life? Why Sleep Should Be on the Top of Your To-Do List”. By Sherrie Bourg Carter