It’s Time to Start Prioritizing Sleep

Getting good sleep can change your life – it did mine.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

I knew that sleep was important, but for nearly my entire life I didn’t realize just how important it was to sleep well. Everyone feels better after a good night’s sleep, but few people realize that crucial processes occur during sleep that help to restore and rejuvenate their brains and bodies and remove toxic metabolites. I didn’t—until recently—and I am a physician.

When I went to medical school and residency, I was not taught the importance of sleep. I didn’t understand that sleep was a vital bodily function. Instead, I considered sleep a waste of valuable time and pushed myself to get up earlier, stay up later and do everything possible to see one more surgery, examine one more patient, complete one more bit of paperwork, before finally giving in to a small period of “unproductive” sleep.

Once I became a full-fledged attending physician, I worked 24+ hour shifts to try to maximize the time spent out of the hospital. My colleagues and I thought it was worth the trade-off of sacrificing sleep to have more time off with our families.

This strategy seemed to work for a while, but then the sleep deprivation caught up with me. I found that I was tired all of the time. I caught colds more easily and seemed to have a slower recovery from illnesses. When I was with my family, I was often not really “there” because I was too tired.

Even though I loved my job, I ultimately left clinical medicine, partially to take better care of my health. I learned to put a higher priority on getting enough sleep. This emphasis alone, made me feel better than ever. I became more focused, more “present,” and was sick less often.

Besides physicians, other shift workers such as nurses, truck drivers, police officers, and firefighters—to name a few—are at risk for sleep disturbances and associated excessive daytime, or shift-time sleepiness.

Those with sleep disturbances are also at an increased risk for additional chronic illnesses like diabetes, depression, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, not to mention on the job accidents or errors. While there will always be the need for shift workers in our 24-hour society, I now realize that people must be made more aware of the importance of prioritizing restful, uninterrupted sleep.

What We Can Do to Improve Our Sleep

Here are some immediate steps to consider:

1. If you work shifts or run a business where you have shift workers, schedule shifts to give maximum time off between workdays for adequate recovery time. Consider taking short naps of around fifteen minutes during break times (some of the most famous tech companies actually have sleep pods and rooms for their employees to nap).

2. Avoid caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime.

3. Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark.

4. Avoid the use of electronic devices in the bedroom.

5. Screen yourself for sleep apnea by talking with your doctor or dentist (Many dentists treat sleep apnea, because it is often a result of mouth or throat anatomy issues) or by using online tools such as those offered by the American Sleep Apnea Association. This is particularly important if:

· You experience excessive daytime sleepiness

· You are a loud snorer

· You suffer from choking or gagging during sleep

· Your neck/collar size is greater than 16 inches

· You are moderately overweight

· You have been diagnosed with a chronic medical illness that is made worse by sleep apnea such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep disturbance that robs people of their good night’s sleep. According to a 2016 study commissioned by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep apnea is present in 23.5 million people in the United States who aren’t even aware of their condition. Once diagnosed, the treatments for sleep apnea are fairly simple, have very few side effects, can make sufferers feel better almost immediately, and are effective treatments for other associated chronic diseases at the same time.

Prioritizing our sleep is as important as treating any other chronic disease such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Take the first step to improving your life and prioritize your sleep!

For more information on sleep apnea and other resources:

1. American Sleep Apnea Association’s screening tool:

2. American Academy of Sleep Medicine study by Frost and Sullivan:

3. National Institute of Health:

4. CDC Tips for better sleep:

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Photo Credit: Minnesota Vikings
Sleep Well//

NFL Star Kirk Cousins on How Quality Sleep Raises His Game and Improves His Performance

by Shelly Ibach (Sponsored By Sleep Number)

Sleeping more won’t fix all my problems, but it fixes a lot of them

by Jennifer Harlan
Unplug & Recharge//

Why I Ditched My Phone For a Traditional Alarm Clock

by Emily Madill

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.