12/10/2015 03:58 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2016

Thirsty for Sleep?

When your body and brain send signals that you're thirsty, likely you respond by getting something to drink. It's not likely you find excuses that quenching your thirst can wait a few more hours. When your body and brain send signs that you're sleepy, what do you do?

10:30 PM:
You've had a long, busy day. You're dragging. Your body is begging for bed. Your brain beckons a break. Then your phone pings because you have new texts. You check Facebook and write the posts you promised yourself you'd share before going to sleep.

11:30 PM:
YIKES! You've got those unanswered emails to your team at work.

11:50 PM:
"How can I stay up?" you ask yourself. A cup of coffee will help you do what just can't wait.

1:00 AM:
You look at the clock wondering how you're going to get up to go to work because you're still so wired from the caffeine. So you fire up your laptop/tablet to catch up on the latest episode of Scandal, thinking you'll probably drift off halfway through...

6:30 AM:
RING! Hit snooze. Once. Twice. Three times. You've used up your wiggle room. Far from rejuvenated, you're up and out in a morning haze.

8:26 AM
Arriving at the office, you grab a file, laptop and scurry to the conference room for a meeting. On the way, you drop the plastic top from your morning Starbucks, along with an empty water bottle from yesterday, into the recycle bin.

We may be quick to recycle bottles from drinks that quench our thirst, but maybe we need to RECYCLE OUR SLEEP, converting old, unhealthy sleep habits into new ones that support healthy sleep.

Sleep is essential for life. Not getting sufficient sleep, both quality and quantity, is not sustainable. Research continues to show that sleep impacts our physical, mental and emotional well-being. In fact, humans are the only species that selectively choose to avoid sleep, or attempt to sleep (or be awake) at times that are out of synch with our natural circadian rhythms, something our body is not wired to do.

Chronic sleep deprivation takes its toll in ways both subtle and apparent. Sleep deprivation's impact on our physiology and health may be accumulating behind the scenes for years, compromising our health and well-being in myriad ways. The short term impacts are more obvious. It's hard to take a run or go to spin class after work when we're exhausted. Ever feel more forgetful than your grandmother, who keeps reminding you that you need more sleep as she witnesses you yawning at family events?

So, how can we quench our thirst for sleep? Just as we get a glass of water when we're thirsty, we need to be responsive when our body and brain shout out, I NEED TO GO TO SLEEP! This is the call to respond to, not the next one on our cell phone.

Here are some signs that say, GET TO BED NOW:

  • Excessive yawning reflects how tired we are, although scientists continue to figure out its connection to sleep
  • Falling asleep at night watching TV is not only a sign that it's time for bed, but doing so regularly can set up a cycle that reinforces poor sleep. Add to that the light emitted from the screen and the stimulation from what you are watching, and there's all the more reason to tune out at least an hour before bedtime
  • Dozing off for very brief periods ("microsleeps"), which may result in memory lapses during those times
  • Desperate need for caffeine to stay awake, a quick fix that has side effects including negatively impacting your subsequent night's sleep and a cycle of dependence/withdrawal

The consequences of chronic sleep deprivation, as supported by significant scientific evidence, may include:

The good news is that if you quench your sleep thirst by making sleep the priority it needs to be, it's likely you won't need to address the risks to your health and well-being listed above. That said, sleep deprivation may be associated with unrecognized or undiagnosed sleep disorders. Check with your physician if you have signs of a sleep disorder.

Here are some Healthy Sleep Tips so, starting tonight, you can quench your sleep thirst. CHEERS TO A GREAT NIGHT'S SLEEP!