More and more, I’ve noticed that people aren’t sleeping. I’ll text my friend on the east coast at 2 a.m. her time, and she’ll respond right away. Or, I’ll see people up late on Facebook Messenger or posting on Instagram. Everybody talks about how tired they are these days.
According to one study, almost half of Americans say they feel tired between three and seven days per week, and 35.2% of all U.S. adults sleep less than seven hours per night.
In one way, this is comforting, because I’m not alone anymore. I’ve been a night owl ever since I was a kid and stayed up until 1 a.m., dreading the early start to my school day. I’ve had a permanent coffee cup in my hand since I was 14, and I’ve tried Benadryl, melatonin and Unisom. Nothing makes me tired.
I stay up late not only because it’s how my body is wired, but also because I love the silence. It’s when I can finally think clearly. It’s my “me” time. When I was younger, I’d be awake long after everyone else in my family had gone to sleep. Now, it’s the same with my husband and kids.
While I’ve learned to accept my night owl status, on the other hand, it’s not the healthiest thing to stay up so late. It can cause weight gain, hurt your immune system and lead to forgetfulness. I often feel out of touch with the rest of the world. We live in a society where going to bed early and getting up early are the ideal, and being on a different kind of schedule means you’re out of the loop.
The pandemic had a negative impact on my sleep, and I believe it hurt other people’s sleep habits as well. When we weren’t going to work, partaking in our favorite hobbies and gathering with our friends outside of our homes, time seemed amorphous. I stayed up late reading the news for updates about COVID, then the riots, then the election and the slew of other issues we’ve been hit with over the past few years. The anxiety and fearmongering have been relentless. I haven’t fully recovered – and I’m sure others haven’t either.
The pandemic had a negative impact on my sleep … When we weren’t going to work, partaking in our favorite hobbies and gathering with our friends outside of our homes, time seemed amorphous.
I have years of practice when it comes to staying up late, though. I’ve been functioning like this nearly my entire life. Going to bed at midnight would be a major win for me.
We learn in Jewish law that we are commanded to take care of ourselves. If you aren’t sleeping enough or going to bed too late, it could take a toll on your mental and physical health. I’ve certainly had my fair share of struggles due to a lack of sleep. When I’m tired, for instance, I’m much more likely to gravitate towards sugar and caffeine just to stay awake throughout the day. I don’t feel good when I ultimately end up crashing.
Going forward, I’m going to try my best to get to sleep at a more reasonable time. I want to switch off the screens and relax with a good book before bed instead. I’m hoping my new exercise routine will wear me out and help me feel at ease. Getting seven hours of sleep per night would, excuse the pun, be a dream. It’s a healthy way of taking back control over my life.
If you’re staying up too late – especially if this is a new, pandemic-related habit – look at the reasons why. If you’re feeling anxious during the day or eating poorly or generally not functioning well, it could be tied to your sleep. From one night owl to another: it can be fun to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, but up to a certain point.
I encourage you to turn off your screens at night; there will always be more news and social media notifications and email messages to keep you occupied. Don’t let the grind of everyday life make you unhealthy. Instead, give yourself a break … and get some sleep already.
Kylie Ora Lobell is the Community and Arts Editor for the Jewish Journal.