The Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation
A lack of sleep is something we’ve probably all suffered from at one time or another. Whether it’s because we have young children, a work deadline looming, toothache or even a date or holiday to get excited about, sleep deprivation is annoying and makes the daytimes a struggle.
But is it something to worry about? Does it affect our health?
Failure to get enough sleep for a short period – be it several nights or weeks – and you’ll no doubt start feeling the following effects:
An Inability to Concentrate
It’s thought that around one in three Brits of working age don’t get enough sleep. Even one night of disturbed sleep can mean that you can’t concentrate on the task in hand the next day. Decisions become more difficult, you may make wrong choices more frequently and your daytime alertness in general will be impaired.
Not surprisingly, a lack of sleep will mean your recall isn’t what it should be. Problem-solving may prove that bit trickier too and tasks will take longer than usual.
Tiredness means you’re going to be irritable, so guess what? Your relationships with friends, colleagues, family members and partners will suffer as a result.
What happens if you can’t concentrate? You tend to make mistakes. Car accidents happen due to lack of sleep, so too do injuries at work. Far too many of us get behind the wheel feeling tired and with impaired faculties. A scary thought for anyone using the roads, on wheels or on foot.
Long Term Sleep Deprivation
All of the above are annoying, but with the exception of accidents, they’re not particularly detrimental to life. But what if sleep problems persist so long, that it’s been months or even years since your last good night’s sleep?
Then you’re at a higher risk of developing medical problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and even Attention Deficit Disorder.
Weight gain and obesity could also become an issue, even if you go to the gym regularly. A lack of sleep can affect growth hormones, meaning muscles take longer to repair after exercise, hindering your progress. It’ll also boost your insulin and cortisol levels which can lead to extra fat storage.
Getting Enough Sleep
The good news is that once you’ve identified that you’re not getting enough sleep, the condition can usually be treated once the underlying cause is found – and in most cases it’s not difficult. Take a look at your lifestyle and see where you could make changes. Get into healthy sleep habits – if you know you have to be up at 6am, you need to be thinking about winding down for bed at 10pm, no matter how tempting that late night film is. Stress is a tricky one to change but trying some meditation or mindfulness might help. If exercise makes you wired, make sure you do it at least three hours before bedtime, and don’t eat a large meal too late at night.
Avoid using your mobile phone before bed, make sure your bedroom isn’t too hot or too light and if you’ve had your pillow for years, get a new one!
Talk to your doctor if nothing seems to be working and once you’re getting those regular seven or eight hours again the world will seem like a totally different place.
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