Nearly a third of American adults are sleep deprived, so it seems that lack of sleep is a common and harmless issue. But as you actively seek the next “big thing” for your career, can you afford to do so without enough rest?
The average person needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but this doesn’t help us define sleep deprivation since different people need different amounts of sleep. So let’s consider sleep deprivation getting fewer hours of sleep than you need to feel alert and awake.
Fewer hours of sleep means more hours to complete payroll or schedule lunch meetings, and who doesn’t want that? But with more hours of productive work crammed into one day, you end up with fewer mental and even physical resources to do those tasks well. Here’s a few symptoms of sleep deprivation that will not doubt encourage you to rest more.
Sick More Often And For Longer
According to a study published by the Mayo Clinic, lack of sleep weakens your immune system, making it easier for you to fall sick. Unfortunately, this means you’re more likely to take sick days and miss personal events because of a cold. Worse still is that a weaker immune system means you’ll take longer to recover, which can be inconvenient if you’re normally very busy. Fortunately, good rest habits can bolster a struggling immune system, and keep you energized and healthy.
Lack of sleep can also cause you to feel emotionally unstable. I’m sure you’ve been there, just at your wits end and more frustrated than you usually are. Often, sleeplessness is the culprit. Sleep deprivation results in irritability and an inability to interpret facial expressions accurately. In cases of extreme sleep deprivation, delirium results, which normally feels like disorientation or feeling out of touch. Unfortunately, this often hits hardest while you’re talking or interacting with others and you might notice a sudden lack of patience with a coworker or family member. In cases where personal and professional careers are already strained, lack of sleep can definitely add some tension.
As our generation struggles to fight obesity, it’s noteworthy that lack of sleep increases sugar cravings. I know, take a moment to sigh out your frustrations. According to a sleep deprivation study by the Huffington Post, lack of sleep leads to an increase in the ghrelin hormone which triggers hunger. Not only will you be hungrier when sleep deprived, but you’ll be hungry for all the wrong foods: high-calorie, high-carbohydrate products.
Sex Feels Optional
With your life as busy as it is, finding the time and energy for intimacy can be draining – we get it. Throw in sleep deprivation and that makes for a bad time altogether. Studies show that sleep loss can put a significant damper on your sex drive, and make you less interested in being intimate. Throw in stress about the whole situation, and your tensions can turn from physical uninterest to emotional frustration. This seems like a high price to pay for a few more productive hours.
Lack of Focus & Forgetfulness
Getting fewer hours of sleep than your body needs can make it harder for you to focus, and lead to forgetfulness. This is one of the hallmarks of sleep deprivation and one that almost everyone can relate to. Forgetting small details like the placement of keys and coffee cups can result after a night or two of little sleep. However, this can turn into more serious cognitive problems like lower alertness and an overall sense of confusion. Unfortunately, this can have consequences far beyond taking a few more minutes to find your keys. You can harm some bigger aspects of life such as relationships, social responsibilities and careers by cutting back on how much rest you get each night.
Whether you’re taking longer than usual to push your key into the front door, or falling over as you slip into your slacks, a common side effect of sleep deprivation is increased clumsiness. This is one of most frustrating results of sleep loss because it can put you in some pretty embarrassing situations. On fewer hours of sleep, your motor skills weaken, reflexes dull and depth perception goes out of whack. Coupled with trouble focusing, this can mean slower reaction times, which is a dangerous co-pilot on long drives. Of course there’s a ton of great ways to counteract this side effect, but a few night’s of rest is definitely your cure for sleep-induced clumsiness.
The temporal lobe, which handles speech, is active in well-rested people. Though, if you’re lacking a few hours of rest, your temporal lobe may become less active resulting in slurred speech, which is never a good thing if you’re trying to impress your boss at a presentation. Plus, your anterior insula handles risk aversion, but activity slows in this part of the brain if you’re sleep deprived. Don’t go gambling on a poor night’s sleep because this could mean more risk-taking and real-life losses.
Of course there’s not just doom and gloom associated with the topic of sleep deprivation. The truth is, you can’t reclaim hours and even days worth of sleep loss, but you can do your body a favor and improve your resting habits starting tonight. Here’s four of our best and easiest tips for someone like you who needs to fall asleep quickly and get great rest every night.
- Be smart about how you use your phone before bed. Studies show that the light from cell phones shine in a blue tint that signals to the brain that it’s morning and it’s time to wake up. So even if you’re tired, you’re neurons are firing as they do during your waking hours, and it becomes harder to fall asleep. There’s apps for both android and iPhones you can download to adjust the light on your phone and avoid waking up your brain right before bed. An easy fix is also to avoid using your phone for 30 minutes before going to sleep.
- Stick to your circadian rhythm. This refers to the bodily changes that follow a 24-hour cycle corresponding to the presence of light and darkness. What this means for you is that your body prepares for sleep at sundown and wakes up somewhat naturally at dawn. According to the Mayo Clinic, reinforcing your sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can promote better rest. Sounds easy enough, but it’s just as important for you to do this on weekends and holidays. This consistency will help you rest well all the time.
- Manage stress. As we mentioned earlier, the less sleep you get, the more time you have to perform important tasks. However, you’ll not only suffer from the effects of lack of sleep, but by doing more, you’re likely to be more stressed. Consider ways to better manage stress: get more organized using a calendar, set reminders, prioritize tasks and stick to a schedule. Finally, give yourself the space to take a break when you need to – you deserve it. Take some time to laugh, write down what you’re grateful for, or blog about your day. And if you have a lot on your mind before bed, jot it down and commit those things to the next day.
- Finally, don’t be shy about using sleep supplements. Options like RestUp contain melatonin, a hormone that naturally occurs in the body and promotes drowsiness. Supplements like this one are unique because their ingredients use your body’s natural sleep mechanisms to help you sleep more soundly.
You lead a hectic life, and sleep deprivation can have some overwhelming short- and long-term effects. However, productivity, your mood and cognitive health depends highly on how many hours of sleep you get each night. The experts have done their research and the findings all point toward consistent and healthy sleep patterns as the goal. So, as your new year continues, we encourage you to adopt healthier sleeping habits. Don’t just sleep for you, but do it for the aspects of your life that demand your attention, care and focus.