THE BLOG

Sleep Is the New Wonder Drug

04/19/2015 09:41 am ET | Updated Jun 19, 2015

2015-04-16-1429198048-1469785-HUFFPOSTPEACEFULSLEEPsmall.jpg

Did I just give you permission to use a drug?

Yes, I did. Sleep is THAT important.

Scientists have discovered that sleep is not just important for the brain, but also for immune function, hormone balancing, learning and, my favorite, weight loss.

Sleep is the time when your body repairs all the damage done to it during the day.

Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer.

When I used to stay up too late I wasn't as productive. Not to mention, I was more irritable and prone to short tempers that can be very disruptive and embarrassing.

Does this sound familiar? I bet it does -- many of us get six hours or less, even though The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says we need seven to eight hours of sleep at night. How many are you getting?

Deep down, we all know we don't get enough sleep, yet we make it the last priority on our to-do list, if it even makes the to-do list at all.

Why?

I live in the city that never sleeps: New York City. Here, sleep is not a valued commodity. It's almost unheard of for people to put in less than a 12-hour workday at the office, and then nearly all of us bring work home.

It's considered a badge of honor to dedicate hours upon hours at work only to have no energy left to dedicate your time to what's really important.

Thankfully, this is beginning to change.

While sitting at a conference last spring, I was surprised to hear Arianna Huffington, someone of her experience and stature, not only allowing herself to indulge in the sleep drug, but encouraging everyone to follow suit!

I was thrilled.

You see, just like her, it took a big ah-ha moment for me to wake up and realize that not sleeping and pushing myself too hard was not helping me or anyone else. It was actually hurting me.

Last year, I developed an abscess cyst on my jawline, about the size of a walnut. Not only was it the ugliest thing you ever saw, my surgeon informed me it was potentially killing me.

She wanted to admit me to hospital immediately for observation.

I felt a heavy pit land in my stomach.

In traditional New Yorker fashion, I said there was no way I could just drop everything to do that. I'm a single mother with lots of responsibilities.

She listened for a moment, and then this amazing doctor put her arms around me, held me and gave it to me straight.

"You are one very lucky woman," she said. "I am going to help you take care of this. But you need to stop. You need to slow down. You need to sleep. You need to take care of yourself."

She told me to crawl into bed and only get out of it in order to come and see her. She said that if I followed these valuable instructions I would get well. She explained to me that I work too much and take care of everyone except myself. She made it crystal clear that I needed to stop immediately or I wouldn't be around to take care of anyone else.

Immediately, I knew she was right. This was my wakeup call!

So, I went home and stayed in bed for weeks, only leaving the comfort of my apartment a handful of times. I slept and slept and slept. Within the first week, I already felt something shift. My internal clock was becoming normal. I started to get tired at night and get up naturally with the sun in the morning.

Today, when I feel tired or sick, I cancel everything and crawl into bed until I feel rested, clear-headed, and ready to get back to business. This is a complete 180 from my old self who survived on only four hours of sleep, juggling single motherhood, school and a full-time job.

The conference I attended with Arianna Huffington was shortly after my health scare. I found myself nodding in agreement and applauding when Arianna said, "With sleep and proper rest -- everything is transformed. Sleep deprivation should no longer be a badge of honor." I wonder if I could have avoided my life-threatening infection if I had not been living a sleep deprived life. I'll never know but now my aim is to get eight hours of sleep at night. Period.

So go ahead, try it. Shut off your phone. Fall into bed. Wrap yourself in a blanket. And deeply inhale the freedom of giving your body exactly what it needs... a good night's sleep.

Sweet Dreams!

xo Lynne