Abraham Maslow was a twentieth century psychologist and the pioneer of “humanistic psychology. His most famous contribution to modern psychology is known as the “Hierarchy of Needs”. It looks like the old food pyramid for healthy eating from the US Department of Agriculture, however, instead of listing a healthy diet, Maslow’s pyramid lists what human beings need to survive. The foundation of the Maslow pyramid is made up of physiological needs; food, air, the desire to avoid pain and sleep. Life itself is not possible without these things.
It is common in western societies for people stay up late or get up early to get things done. Sometimes, they have difficulty getting to sleep or staying that way. Drinking an extra cup of coffee for a jolt of energizing caffeine or eating a candy bar for a quick rush of energy help mask the effects of too little sleep. The problem with these supposed “solutions” is that the lack of adequate rest is more damaging and pervasive than people think. Various medical studies have linked poor sleep to increased behavior problems and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms in children. A study published in the November 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine says that sleeping more than 7.5 hours a night may provide some protection against heart attacks. In addition, insomnia and lack of sleep have been linked to an increased risk for depression.
The benefits of good sleep are also far reaching. Adequate sleep has been linked to increased longevity, problem solving, better memory and increased work production. Sleep helps regulate hormones that send signals to your body that you need to eat. “Good sleep, in combination with other lifestyle modifications, may be important in fighting obesity,” says a study published in the journal of Public Library of Science: Medicine in 2004 . With evidence rapidly piling up linking good sleep with better health and quality of life, the importance of establishing consistent sleep patterns becomes more obvious. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following ten tips to help achieve sleep and the benefits it provides.
1. Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends.
2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music.
3. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
4. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
5. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
6. Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
7. Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
8. Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime. It can keep you awake.
9. Avoid nicotine (e.g. cigarettes, tobacco products). Used close to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep.
10. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
It is a fundamental truth that you cannot give what you do not have. Whether it is something tangible, like a quarter or whether it is something intangible, like energy for a project. When you give all your money away, you need to earn more before you can give again. When you use up all your energy, you need to replenish your supply. Meditation, reading and exercise help, but you can survive without them. A good night’s sleep, however, is crucial, not only to maintaining good health and peace of mind, but to your life itself.