The Reasons Why Sleep Matters

My personal experience has taught me that consistently getting decent sleep is THE most important factor in my overall well-being—more than relationships, exercise, diet, money, or anything else. Let me list the reasons why sleep matters.

Obviously I don’t currently, and likely never will (except maybe during research sabbatical), get 8 hours of sleep 7 days per week. But I always get as much sleep as possible. This means that sleep almost always comes before my husband, family, friends, studying, drinking, TV, and whatever else keeps me away from my bed.  (Of course there are exceptions.)

A mentor once told me, “Whenever you say ‘yes’ to something, you’re saying ‘no’ to something else.” Sometimes saying ‘yes’ to sleep means my life appears pretty boring from the outside. For example, when I was a 4th year med student on my surgery sub-internship, I woke up at 4:00am every day and usually didn’t get home until 7pm or later. When I got home, I ate dinner while I talked to my husband, showered, and then got in bed around 8:00pm. This was also in July, so I was actually in bed before the sun set every night.

This sounds like a really pathetic existence, but I swear I was happy. Giving up some time with my husband after work in favor of getting enough sleep was worth it because I wasn’t exhausted on my days off. I actually had energy to spend time with him. And getting enough sleep helped me perform at my peak so that I could get great letters of recommendation. I didn’t get sick once and I didn’t get burnt out.

How I Get Enough Sleep

I’m not going to rehash the 5 million articles about sleep hygiene that we’ve all read. In brief, here’s what works for me:

A white noise machine. The Marpac Dohm-DS All-Natural White Noise Sound Machine is probably that best $50 I ever spent. Available in black, white, and beige on Amazon.

A bedtime routine. We all know this… Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Do the same things in the same order and it prepares you for sleep.

A non-screen bedtime hobby. For me, it’s reading. I’ve also tried Sudoku in the past, but I tend to get too determined to win and it actually keeps me awake.

Benadryl. When all else fails.

Do y’all have any other sleep tips or tricks that I didn’t mention?

Originally on The Health Scout’s Blog

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The Health Scout, "Almost" MD

Dalya Ferguson (The Health Scout) is a PGY2 General Surgery resident at the University of Texas at Houston who is passionate about improving medical education, healthcare quality, and health literacy. Before medical school, she earned a BA in Literary Studies with a minor in Philosophy and worked at a healthcare consulting company for over 2 years. When she's not working, she is usually spending time with her husband and family, studying, reading, drawing cartoons, or tweeting.

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