Sleep Deprived Much?!
Does Day Light Savings and the winter blues have you feeling a little foggy headed and sleep deprived? The struggle is real. In fact, it’s so real, that according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep. Oh my!
So what exactly is sleep deprivation? Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough deep sleep or restorative sleep for the brain. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight loss or weight gain. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function.
Why should we care about sleep? Is it really that important? All stages of sleep are vitally important. Here are a few reasons why our body needs and loves sleep so much; our brain waves slow down, breathing regulates, our body temperature drops, blood pressure drops, muscles relax, tissue grows and repairs, the brain is cleansed, energy is restored, and hormones are released.
How much sleep do we really need? Sleep needs vary over time; patterns and characteristics change with the Life Cycle but the average adult, 18 years and older, needs 7-9 hours. Infants need 12-18 hours, young children need 10-14 hours and teens need approximately 8-10 hours. Ok, so why aren’t American’s getting enough sleep? We work longer hours than ever before, including excessive travel and increased demands. We have around-the-clock technological connections (thanks to wifi, laptops and smart phones). We deal with job security stressors, multiple jobs and have limited time available to sleep due to competing work/life responsibilities. Lifestyle choices such as alcohol, nicotine and caffeine can definitely affect our sleep patterns. And, environmental disruptions such as noise, kids, animals, weather and daylight savings can take a toll as well.
What are the negative effects on the body and mind when we don’t get enough sleep? We experience decreased mental functionality and performance and have an increased amount of stress on the heart and other organs. Moodiness kicks in (and that’s never a good thing). We experience impaired reaction time, decreased motivation, lower energy levels, and our physical appearance suffers. Our hormones get out of whack and we experience appetite and body weight fluctuations as well as our immune system takes a hit, and illness and disease set in.
Can we get out of sleep debt and overcome sleep deprivation? The answer is YES, thank goodness. BUT… think of sleep like a credit card, the more you go into debt, the more sleep it will take to get out of debt. Sleep can only be repaid with SLEEP!
Here are some simple ways to improve your sleep hygiene; maintain a regular sleep and wake time schedule (even on the weekends), establish a relaxing bedtime routine, eliminate technology disruptions, create a dark, quiet, comfortable and cool sleeping environment, sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow, exercise daily and eat healthy, finish eating 2-3 hours before going to bed and avoid eating foods that are spicy or high in fat, avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed, avoid napping times that might disrupt your bedtime sleep pattern and take naps when needed or when your sleep debt is adding up!!
Now, go get some Z’s, your health depends on it! J