When it comes to sleep, we’re our own worst enemy…
You know you’re supposed to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night. It doesn’t always happen though, whether it’s a work project, a child that needs help with their homework or even just an indulgent binge session on Netflix. We get it. We’ve all been there. And, to be honest, a late night here and there won’t have any lasting effects beyond a slower start the next day.
But when you skimp on sleep night after night (week after week) it becomes a real problem. Though you may think maxing out at 5 hours of sleep each night habit is nothing to worry about, chronic sleep deprivation has been tied to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Not to mention an early death…
If you’re concerned your sleep habits might be adversely affecting your health, it’s time to dig into your nightly (and daily) habits and find a way to add extra hours to your sleep routine.
Signs of sleep deprivation
1. Your emotions are out of control. Lack of sleep interrupts those otherwise efficient pathways between nerve cells that communicate information. You may not process information as quickly and coordination skills may suffer, boosting chances of preventable accidents. Because all paths lead back to the brain when it comes to how well we function, it’s not surprising that a sleep deficit can lead to serious long and short-term health issues. Researchers have found a 33% increase in the risk of dementia – plus escalated depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness and fuzzy thinking. Not getting enough rest on a regular basis can age your brain by an estimated 3-5 years. Also of note is the tie between insomnia and mood. A 2007 study of 10,000 people with insomnia were 5 times as likely to experience depression.
2. You can’t remember simple things. A good night’s sleep helps our brains categorize and consolidate memories – embedding the learning from the previous day while discarding the things we can safely forget. When you’re awake, you learn new things. But when you’re asleep you refine them, making it easier to retrieve them and apply them correctly when you need them the most. This is important for how we learn but also for how we might help retain healthy brain functions as we age.
3. You’re not interested in sex. Men especially experience lower libido levels because of lower testosterone, which, you guessed it, are tied to poor sleep quality. Evidence published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism stated that men who suffer from sleep apnea are significantly affected. The study showed that nearly half of the men with severe apnea secreted abnormally low levels of testosterone at night. For both men and women who are tired, the last thing on their minds would be getting busy between the sheets. Let’s face it, the best intimacy happens when both partners are well rested and raring to go.
4. Your immune system is acting up. Sleep. It’s a crucial component for good health because of the important role it plays in strengthening the immune system. A recognized flu-fighter, sleep helps us fight off viruses and disease and is a crucial boost to recovery if we do get sick. While a good night’s sleep is by no means a cure to COVID, it’s an effective, natural immune booster during every day, regular life but especially during a crisis.
5. A second wind hits you at 9:00 pm. Do you ever tell yourself, “Tonight I’ll be in bed by 9:30 pm?” But 9:30 rolls around and you feel fine so you continue to get things done – but then end up going to bed after midnight with only 6 hours of sleep. Your body’s level of melatonin is off course because your body can no longer figure out when you should be sleeping or awake.
Some simple, quick tips to get through a sleep-deprived day
Obviously there’s no substitute for real sleep, but here are some helpful hacks to help you fake it until you can invest in better sleep.
- Schedule smart. Schedule important meetings for the time of day you’re most alert. For most of us, that’s the morning, right after we’ve had our first cup of coffee.
- Power nap. If you’re able, take a quick 20 minute nap on your lunch break.
- Be active. Get outside for a half hour in the morning. The sunshine, fresh air and movement will energize you better than a cup of coffee. .
- Turn up the tunes. Studies have shown that listening to music will help you concentrate better and longer.
- Eat breakfast. Mom was right – it really is the most important meal of the day. Start your day with the fuel you’ll need to get you through the day.
- Grab a coffee. Coffee is a great pick-me-up – but enjoy it early in the day or you won’t be sleeping soundly at night.
- Freshen up. Scents like citrus and cinnamon will help reduce mental fatigue and improve energy.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. From the inside out. This means sipping water all day – or eating water-containing foods.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- Coffee, sleep and you
- 17 hacks to get you through a sleep-deprived day
- What you need to know before hiring a sleep coach