Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, was known as the âIron Lady.â She received this nickname from the news media in the Soviet Union for her resolve in opposing communism, which later contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reuniting of Germany in 1989.
Many attribute her success to working long hours and sleeping just four hours per night. She seemed to live by the motto, âSleep is for wimps.â
American inventor Thomas Edison changed the world when he commercialized the incandescent light bulb in the late 1800s. During his life, he held 1,093 patentsâa world record. He also created the motion picture camera and phonograph (the first device that could record and play back sound).
Edison was known to work for days at a timeâonly catching short naps when needed. He regarded sleep as a criminal waste of time.
Other individuals with historic achievements were known to spend less than eight hours in bed each night. Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte reportedly clocked only five or six hours. By some accounts, Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton got by with only two or three hours!
Is sleeping fewer hours needed to be successful? On its face, it seems to make sense. If you work more hours, you can accomplish more.
Many teenagers buy into the thinking that sleep is unimportant and only gets in the way of homework, hobbies and fun. Pulling an all-nighter to finish a school project or beat a video game is seen as something to brag about.
Yet it is not so simple. For example, both Thatcher and Edison suffered ill effects from their poor sleeping habits.
A fellow politician who worked with the Iron Lady told the BBC that he believed so little rest wore heavily on her. He remembered when working closely with her that he âwould often see the eyes of an exhausted woman.â
Many scientists believe lack of sleep contributes to the memory-loss disease dementia, which Thatcher battled later in her life.
The book How They Succeeded: Life Stories of Successful Men Told by Themselves stated that Edison worked an average of 20 hours per day for 15 years. But he estimated when he was 47 years old that his true age was more like 82.
Edison pulled back from this rigorous routine later in life. The book recounted his more sustainable schedule: âI come to the laboratory about eight oâclock every day and go home to tea at six, and then I study or work on some problem until eleven, which is my hour for bed.â Even with this more normal schedule, he remained productive late into his life without the problems that come from lack of sleep.
Yet Edisonâs more balanced schedule is the exception rather than the rule. Society is stuck on the idea that to be successful you must stay up late and rise early.
In the book of Psalms, God shows the folly of this thinking: âIt is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so He gives His beloved sleepâ (127:2). The word âvainâ in this verse means useless and destructive. In other words, âIt is useless and destructive for you to rise up early and stay up lateâŚâ
In this verse, notice that God also calls sleep a gift.
Many assume the human body shuts down during sleep and remains inactive until morning. But nothing could be further from the truth! During rest, the body executes a variety of complex and essential tasks that will help you feel rested, healthy and ready to meet the day.
We were created to be successful and productive. In John 10, Jesus stated: ââŚI am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantlyâ (vs. 10).
When rest is fully understood, you will never again see it as a waste of time. In fact, proper sleeping habits are crucial to leading an abundant life!
Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Lack of sleep can have many short-term and long-term effects on health. An article by WebMD listed some of the most common negative effects from lack of sleep.
Acne: A lack of sleep leads to higher amounts of stress and the inability to adapt. Stress increases the production of a chemical called glucocorticoid, which leads directly to the bane of all teenagersâacne! One of the best ways to help control acne is by getting a good nightâs sleep.
Behavior: Sleep deprivation in children can often manifest itself as hyperactivity, problems paying attention, poor behavior in general, and underperformance in school.
- Sleep loss dumbs you down: âSleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently. Second, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in âconsolidatingâ memories in the mind. If you donât get enough sleep, you wonât be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.â
- Skin aging: âWhen you donât get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.â
- Weight gain: âWhen it comes to body weight, it may be that if you snooze, you lose. Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity. According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hoursâŚNot only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite. It also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Ongoing studies are considering whether adequate sleep should be a standard part of weight loss programs.â
Yet the bad effects do not stop there. Others includeâŚ
Long-term effects from not getting the right amount of sleep include heart problems, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes and being prone to accidents. Also, when we do not get enough sleep, we are often irritable and quick-tempered. No one likes to be around a âGrumpy Gusâ!
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Researchers have found that teenagers need eight to 9.5 hours of sleep per day. Yet, in a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, lead author Kathryn Orzech stated that on average they get only 7.5 hours.
Scientists have found that there are four separate stages of sleep within a 90-minute cycle. Within each stage, specific bodily functions occur. As teenagers grow into adulthood, they require a little more than six complete sleep cycles, or about nine hours each night to maintain proper health.
Some believe the misconception that they can âburn the candle at both endsâ or pull all-nighters without any ill effects. One more effect of sleep deprivation from WebMD shatters this idea: âSleep-deprived people seem to be especially prone to poor judgment when it comes to assessing what lack of sleep is doing to them. In our increasingly fast-paced world, functioning on less sleep has become a kind of badge of honor. But sleep specialists say if you think youâre doing fine on less sleep, youâre probably wrong.â
This is an example of how the human mind is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). There are no shortcuts where sleep is involved. When you are young, you may be able to bounce back more quickly from lack of sleep, but you cannot escape the long-term effects of sleep deprivation. Both your development and growth can be adversely affected for years to come.
Make sure to get the sleep you need.
To drill home the importance of sleep, it helps to understand what occurs after you drift off at night. Each 90-minute sleep cycle has four distinct stages.
The first stage is a shift between consciousness and sleep. We relax and our breathing slows.
During the second stage, our heart rate slows even moreâas does our body and brain activity.
The third stage is what is referred to as deep sleep or non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep. Earlier sleep cycles in the night contain longer deep-sleep portions. This is when our brain waves really slow. As a restorative stage, this is the time when blood helps repair damaged body tissue. Growth hormones are also released, making it an essential stage for developing bodies. Brain cells actually shrink to about 60 percent of their normal size allowing the brain to flush out waste, which helps it function more efficiently. About 20 percent of your time sleeping is spent in this stage.
Another 20 percent of time asleep is spent in the fourth stage of the sleep cycle called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Our eyes dart back and forth, which is where this stage of sleep gets its name. Our breathing and heart rate also varies. During REM sleep, the body is made unable to move.
Did you ever wonder why sometimes when dreaming you could never run away from something frightening? Or feel like you could not punch your way out of a wet paper bag? While it is a frustrating feeling, the reason is that during this stage various muscle groups are actually temporarily paralyzed so we do not act out our dreams.
While sleeping, the brain sorts, files or shreds information that we have taken in so that our thoughts can be organized while we are awake. This process, reflected in our dreams, often appears fragmented or disconnected and sometimes just plain silly. But without this time to reorganize our thoughts, we would find that we could not cope as well with the irritations and stresses of daily life.
Tips for a Restful Night
For a proper nightâs sleep, it is best to establish and maintain a consistent sleep time, including weekends, or you will throw off your bodyâs clockâalso known as your circadian rhythm. This rhythm in the body affects every cell, tissue and organ.
We all have regular routines that require us to get up early to meet our obligations, therefore, the only reasonable solution is to go to bed early enough to allow for sufficient sleep time. It does no good to cheat on sleep during the weekdays and try to catch up on the weekends.
During puberty, a teenagerâs circadian rhythm changes, which can make it more difficult for him to fall asleep earlier in the evening. A key ingredient for getting to sleep is the hormone melatonin, which is produced in the brain. The more you produce, the sleepier you become.
Melatonin production is greatly affected by the exposure to light. As it gets darker, your body will make more.
Yet we can interrupt the natural production of melatonin with all of the sources of artificial light available to us during the evening hours. The light that comes from televisions, computer screens, and cellphones, for example, especially inhibits the production of this hormone.
If you wish to enjoy a good nightâs sleep, make it a habit to turn off the TV and computer for a period of time before heading to bed. Also, avoid taking your cellphone or other electronic devices to bed with you. Along with slowing the bodyâs release of melatonin, these devices are a distraction.
What and when you eat also has a significant effect on your ability to fall asleep. Do not have snacks high in sugar or caffeinated drinks just prior to bedtime. Eating right and at the proper times will assist you in getting proper rest.
Another key ingredient to a good nightâs sleep is plenty of exercise through hard work or play. These make your body tired. Notice what it says in Ecclesiastes 5: âThe sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleepâ (vs. 12).
Start with Sleep
Think of your daily routine. What is the first thing you do each day? Common responses may be âtake a shower,â âdrink water,â or âpray.â
Yet this is not how God views it! Sleep is so important that He wants it to be one of the first things you do each day.
How is this?
To God, each day begins as the sun sets. Think of the Sabbath: it begins Friday as the sun slips behind the horizon and lasts until Saturday evening. So, in a sense, one of the first activities God designed us to do each day is to get a good nightâs sleep.
In the booklet The Laws to Success, the third of seven laws is to maintain good health. A key component to maintaining good physical and mental health is to give your body sufficient time to repair and regroup after each dayâs activities. This will also help you avoid harmful situations such as making mistakes with schoolwork or getting into accidents because you are so tired.
God did not create sleep as a waste of time. It is a tremendous blessing!
If you want vibrant health, a brighter outlook on life, and true godly successâmake it a habit to experience the joy of sweet, peaceful sleep.