Advertising

Last Updated on December 18, 2020

A Lack of Sleep May Slowly Kill You: Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know

A Lack of Sleep May Slowly Kill You: Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know
Advertising

I’m always on the lookout for ways to transform my life and that of my clients. Sometimes we all go to great lengths to find the newest skill, habit or capability to change our life.

But if we looked a little closer to home we would find one very simple, often overlooked thing we can do to make us happier, increase our performance and improve our focus and attention.

Even better, that thing is completely within our control and is something we do every night. That thing is sleep.

Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve our health, reduce our stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

In this article, I will look into the benefits of sleep and why you should care.

The epidemic of sleep deprivation

Sleep problem is so bad that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has described it as a ‘sleep loss epidemic’ with two thirds of adults in developed nations not getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night.

In its simplest terms, those of us who have the capacity to have a good night’s sleep just aren’t sleeping enough.

In the US, 35% of adults are not getting 8 hours of sleep every night. In Canada it is 30% and in the UK it is 37%. In Japan, the average time spent asleep is just 6 hours and 22 minutes.

Global policy think-tank, RAND corporation, concluded in 2017 that insufficient sleep was a ‘public health problem, costing the global economy billions in lost productivity each year.

In the National Sleep Foundation’s 2018 Sleep in America Poll, only 10% of respondents prioritised sleep, with fitness/nutrition and work being seen as a much higher priority.

So, with our busy lives and trying to cram in as much as we can every day, have we forgotten the real benefits of getting a good night’s sleep?

Have we forgotten how we feel after a lack of sleep or really understand how bad it is for us not to get a good night’s sleep?

The negative effects of lack of sleep

Sleep deprivation is just really bad for us. Lack of sleep has a lot of negative effects on our physical and mental health.

These include:

Advertising

  • Getting more stressed out
  • High blood pressure
  • Slower reaction time
  • Focus and your attention span diminishes
  • Lower sex drive
  • More prone to bursts of anger and sadness
  • Less creative and mentally exhausted
  • Judgement becomes impaired
  • Immune system gets weaker
  • Becoming more forgetful
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Higher chance of heart disease and stroke
  • More at risk of getting diabetes
  • Gaining more weight

Benefits of sleep (that you never realized)

If we took a step back from our busy lives and prioritized sleep again, the benefits are huge. Let’s look at some of the key benefits:

1. You’ll be happier.

If you sleep poorly, it can ruin your day. You feel sluggish and brain fog can often creep in. An exhausted person is not a happy person. S/he is prone to making snap judgements and feeling more stressed than someone who has had a full 8 hours of shut eye.

You know when you feel well rested, you get out of bed with a bounce in your step ready to take control of your day.

Being well-rested has a significant effect on your daily happiness. Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger found in their research on life satisfaction a direct correlation between sleep quality and overall happiness.

When you sleep well, your motivation will increase and you’ll be more creative. You’ll just feel more positive and problems will feel solvable. You’ll just feel more optimistic about things.

Focus on getting 8 hours sleep every day for a week and see the difference it makes in your daily happiness.

2. It sharpens your attention span.

Our minds work better when we’ve had a good sleep. We can stay focused for longer and our attention span becomes sharper. Any of us who’ve faced a continual lack of sleep knows how difficult it is to concentrate fully.

When our mind is not fully rested, it starts slowing down and we become easily distracted. We struggle to solve problems as effectively and efficiently as we would do if fully rested.

After a good night’s sleep, we can react quicker and analyze information faster. We should never make important decisions after a lack of sleep as we wouldn’t be investing our full brain power and attention on the subject at hand.

3. It improves your memory.

When we sleep, the brain is hard at work processing the moments and experiences we had during the day. Pieces of knowledge are pulled together to make connections and solve problems, helping us to increase performance the following day.

Have you noticed that when you go to sleep with a question in your mind, you sometimes wake up the next day with a solution to the problem?

Sleeping on a problem does help you get the answer. Your memories and skills are being shifted to more efficient and permanent brain regions, increasing our learning, memory and problem solving ability.

4. You’ll have better sex.

Not getting enough sleep, no matter how strong your libido is, can be sure to impact performance in the bedroom.

Sleep is restorative and increases testosterone levels, boosting the sex drive of both men and women.

Advertising

If you never get enough sleep and you feel exhausted, this will lead to an unhealthy relationship. If frustration builds in this area, then relationship issues may occur.

So, get a good night’s sleep to ensure the magic in the bedroom doesn’t go away.

5. It promotes healthy muscle building.

There’s a reason that a lot of elite athletes focus on getting enough sleep. If you don’t sleep properly, you can’t build muscle.

When we’re sleeping, our body enters an anabolic state and uses that time to heal damage to our cells and tissues.

Our body creates spikes in human growth hormone, testosterone and melatonin. They all play a huge role in the reproduction and regeneration of cells within the body.

Put simply, without enough sleep, your body won’t be able to properly restore the damage done to your muscles during the day.

6. It can affect your weight, for the better.

One thing your doctor or nutritionist will tell you if you want to lose weight is get plenty of sleep.

Not only do we have more energy after a good night’s sleep but our body also burns calories. If we’re not sleeping well at night, we could be causing hormonal imbalances that could make you feel hungry more often when we don’t really need to eat.

If we aren’t getting enough sleep, we are more likely to be hungry. We’re more likely to snack on unhealthy food because the body needs more energy to stay awake. This can lead to weight gain.

If you’re tired all the time, you’ll be less motivated to go for a walk or hit the gym, affecting physical health.

If you eat well and rest up properly, your body will thank you for it.

7. It helps reduce stress.

Stress can really affect us emotionally, physically and psychologically. High stress levels can make sleeping more difficult; conversely, getting a good night’s sleep can reduce the effects of stress.

When we are tired, we’re less patient, more frustrated and easily agitated which can increase stress levels. This may increase blood pressure and affect our cholesterol levels.

A good night’s sleep allows you to tackle the day’s stresses much more easily.

Advertising

8. You will have healthier skin.

Sleeping badly is associated with chronic skin conditions. When we’re sleep deprived, our body makes more of the stress hormone cortisol.

Elevated levels of cortisol increase stress levels but also can cause inflammation in the body, which affects the quality of our skin.

This increased inflammation can lead to an increase in the breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, the molecules that give our skin its glow and bounce.

When we’re sleeping, our body’s hydration rebalances. Our skin recovers moisture while excess water is processed for removal.

Not getting our ideal amount of sleep results in poor water balance, leading to puffy bags under our eyes, under eye circles as well as more skin dryness and more visible wrinkles.

On top of that, not getting enough sleep can accelerate the aging process. When we’re in deep sleep, the rise in growth hormones allows damaged cells to repair. Without this, daily small breakdowns will accumulate instead of being reversed overnight.

Get more shut eye to get glowing, healthy skin every morning.

9. It boosts immunity from sickness.

A lack of sleep can severely impair your immune system and make you more vulnerable to infections like cold and flu.

Our immune system is responsible for battling bacteria, viruses and other things that can make us sick. When we’re tired, it struggles to fight off these ‘invaders’ as effectively as it would do if we had a good night’s sleep.

When we give our body the chance to recharge and reset, by having 8 hours sleep a night, we can boost our immunity by optimizing conditions inside our body to make it easier to fight off illness and disease.

10. It makes us less accident prone.

If we’re tired, we have less energy and mental agility. This can make us more prone to accidents and injury as a tired body and a distracted, foggy brain alters our balance and concentration.

Have you noticed the increase in signs on the road that advise you to take a break or not to drive when you’re tired?

If we don’t get enough shut eye it can slow down our reaction time and reduce our ability to focus effectively.

According to the AAA Foundation, missing 1-2 hours of sleep per night doubles your chance of having a car crash.

Advertising

11. You’ll become more focused and productive.

In 2016, the RAND Corporation found that sleep deprivation costs the US Economy $411 billion a year and over 1 million lost workdays. This was caused by people oversleeping, showing up late or just missing work altogether through illness.

When we don’t get enough sleep, we can’t concentrate and focus. We have trouble listening and retaining information. We’re simply less productive.

We often have less energy, become more of a procrastinator and our ability to be creative plummets.

When we sleep well, it takes far less effort to focus. We’re able to focus for longer without our attention wandering and getting distracted.

Having a good night’s sleep allows you to make more measured, effective decisions and helps you solve problems.

When we’re sleep deprived, we’re less motivated and become more forgetful. As well as more focus, a good night’s sleep improves reaction times, gives us better judgement, lowers risk of burnout and reduces errors.

12. It reduces your chance of getting diabetes.

Not sleeping well can increase the risk of people developing diabetes, particularly those working long hours.

When we are tired, we eat more because we need more energy. Rather than going for the healthy option, many of us reach for sugary foods that spike blood sugar levels.

Diabetes occurs when our bodies don’t produce enough insulin. A lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance, meaning it becomes harder for our body to break down sugars.

When we’re tired, our bodies can’t break glucose down into energy. When we’re tired, insulin can’t do its job properly, then sugar levels can harm our eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.

Prioritize your sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to our mental, physical and psychological wellbeing.

It is essential to boost our immune function, metabolism, memory, learning and other vital health functions.

Changing your habits and focusing more on getting the required 8 hours of sleep a night could simply change your life.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Advertising

More by this author

Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit is a Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners who want to achieve more by working less.

11 Tactics on Increasing Brain Power, Memory, and Motivation Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit 8 Time Management Strategies for Busy People The Importance of Sleep Cycles (and Tips to Improve Yours) How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

Trending in Restore Energy

1 Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better 2 What Is the Best Time to Take Your Vitamins? 3 Do Vitamins and Supplements Help With Energy? 4 7 Ways Regular Exercise Boosts Your Mood And Energy 5 How To Take a Cold Shower For the Best Health Benefits

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 15, 2021

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better
Advertising

Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like you can barely stay awake when you need to? Are you left tired and irritable, lacking the joy and motivation that life once brought? If these complaints are tied to your long or rotating work schedule, you may be suffering from shift work disorder—a common ailment among professions with schedules outside the typical 9 am to 6 pm range.[1]

Why does it matter? Let’s be honest—being tired stinks. It feels terrible and leaves you vulnerable to many health risks that well-rested people aren’t as susceptible to. Not only that, but it can also wreak havoc on your relationships and quality of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help manage this, and you can start trying them out today! Some of the solutions may not be what you expect. For instance, you might have linked improved sleep to exercise, but did you know that being compassionate with yourself can also have an impact?

Who Are Affected by Shift Work Disorder?

Twenty-five million people are shift workers in the country, so you are far from alone if you are struggling with this. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently affecting anyone who works a job where their schedule is outside standard business hours. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, and factory workers are common examples of professions with schedules that rotate around the clock.

Rotating shifts naturally leads to a change in one’s schedule, including sleep. As your sleep schedule becomes more chaotic, your body is unable to adjust and regulate itself and can result in having difficulty falling or staying asleep. This inevitably leads to less sleep, which is where some big problems can arise.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sleep is one of the most important (and underrated) aspects of our lives. Enough sleep and good quality sleep are critical to our emotional, mental, and physical health.

Insufficient sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of physical health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Mentally, being tired contributes to having scattered concentration, difficulty processing information, and being more likely to make mistakes or have an accident. Emotionally, the fallout of being chronically exhausted is linked to poor emotional regulation including being irritated more quickly, as well as an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.[2]

Any of this sound familiar? If so, keep reading for some scientifically-based tips to help you manage your sleep better and get your life back.

Advertising

17 Ways to Manage Shift Work Disorder Better

Quality sleep, or the lack thereof, impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The most impactful plan of attack against shift work disorder and to regain quality sleep must also reflect that.

I suggest reading through all of the tips and formulating a plan based on what you think will work for you. Start by trying out one thing and build from there as you are able. Remember to construct a plan that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s start in the most obvious place first:

Your Job

1. Make Your Schedule the Best It Can Be

Randomly rotating shifts has been found to have the worst impact on our health.[3] If you have to rotate your schedule, request to rotate shifts in a clockwise fashion.

For example: work the day shift, rotate to the nights, then to the early morning shift, then start back on the day shift. Sounds silly? It’s not. Studies show that our bodies more easily adjust to changes in schedule when completed in a clockwise manner.[4] This is because of something called our circadian rhythm—24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that carry out essential functions. The most commonly known of these is sleep. It has been discovered that our circadian rhythm adjusts forward more easily than it does backward.

2. Speak to Your Manager About Keeping Your Workplace Bright

Special lights have been designed to assist with circadian rhythm. It turns out that absorbing bright light that is most similar to sunlight can positively impact regulating our circadian rhythm.[5]

3. Avoid a Long Commute to and From Work

Having a long drive home after working a rotating shift is statistically not in your best interest. It’s been shown that fatigued/sleepy employees are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident and 33% more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.[6]

To avoid putting yourself at risk by driving when you’re not at your best, catch a nap before leaving work, pull over to sleep, or stay at a friend’s house nearby.

Advertising

4. Speak to Your Manager About Your Concerns

Many companies that operate around the clock are willing and able to make accommodations to those working alternative shifts. Whether it’s helping you find a schedule that works best for you or connecting you with other programs designed to support your well-being, being in good communication with your employer is to everyone’s benefit.

Sleep Attitudes and Environment

5. Change Your Perspective and Start Prioritizing Sleep

Here’s the deal: despite some pretty well-known dangerous effects of not getting enough sleep, somewhere along the line, our society began to think of sleep as a luxury. Some even consider it a badge of honor to “power through” without much (or any) sleep. People have been made to feel embarrassed or lazy if they get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Here’s the bottom line: sleep is not a luxury.

Let me repeat that—sleep is not a luxury, and getting a consistent and healthy amount does not make you a slacker. Sleep is actually when our body does a lot of repair work on itself—blood vessels, muscles, and other organs. Sleep also boosts our immunity.

If we could help people feel as proud about sleeping as we do about them working out regularly or sticking to a healthy diet, people might be a lot healthier.

6. Make Your Sleep Space as Conducive to Rest as Possible

This means tweaking your environment so it’s as enticing as possible for your body to go to sleep. Keep the room dark using blackout blinds, reduce the temperature (our body rests best when slightly cool), limit interruptions (phone calls, visitors, noise), and remove electronic devices.[7]

Set yourself up for success by supporting yourself through your surroundings. If you wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t frequently surround yourself with cookies, cake, and ice cream, right? Same idea here.

Personal Habits and Choices

7. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule as Closely as Possible—on Workdays and Days Off

This is obviously difficult when your schedule changes on the regular, but the more consistent you can keep your bedtime, the easier time your body has getting to sleep and staying that way.[8]

Advertising

8. Allow Yourself Time to Catch Up on Sleep

Having enough days off to rest and recuperate is an important aspect of protecting your health. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive across the country on one tank of gas, right? Filling your own personal gas tank is just as important.

9. Take Naps, but Don’t Overdo It

It’s recommended by the Cleveland Clinic to take a 90-minute nap just before starting your shift and then a 30-minute nap during your “lunch break” at work.[9] Again, this is all about keeping some gas in your tank and not allowing yourself to get to the point where you are running on fumes. Short naps will help you stay refreshed and alert on the job.

10. Limit Caffeine to the Start of Your Shift

Most of us love a good hit of caffeine, especially when we are tired. But overdoing it or having caffeine too late in your shift can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep when you finally have the time to do so. Moderate your intake to help yourself get some quality sleep.

11. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Unwinding after work with a drink can be tempting. It can make you drowsy, which many people mistakenly believe will help them get better sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually keep you awake (or wake you up later). This obviously impairs your ability to get the quality of sleep you are looking for.

12. Don’t Smoke

Much like alcohol, people turn to nicotine to “calm their nerves” or help them relax. Also, like alcohol, nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.[10] Cut back or cut this habit out as able.

13. Eat Well and Eat Smart

Choose convenient nutritious meals and snacks. Nutritious food is the foundation from which our body creates the needed chemicals for quality sleep. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to have the worst impact on sleep.[11]

Also, timing is everything as they say. Eating too much or not enough before your shift can cause you to feel tired.

14. Get Regular Exercise

According to numerous studies, exercise can be as effective in treating sleep disorders as prescription medication.[12] Yes, you read that correctly—regular exercise is the bomb!

Advertising

This one can be tricky to convince people to do, especially if they are already tired and short on time. If you don’t have the time to hit the gym, take a brisk walk, dance around your living room to your favorite song, or mow your lawn. Despite feeling tired, getting up off the couch and moving around (moderate to vigorous exercise) is best for reducing the time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

Mental and Emotional

15. Establish Consistent Practices That Help You Relax Before Bed

This can include yoga, deep breathing, a warm bath, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and hypnosis. These are designed to reduce physical tension and quiet your mind from thoughts that are keeping you awake. There are lots of great apps and free videos that can help you with this.

16. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT as it’s known, works by helping you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep worse and then developing new habits consisting of thoughts and behaviors that promote sleep. There are psychologists and life coaches who are specially certified in CBT that can help you with this.

17. Show Yourself Some Compassion

Sounds silly? Well, it’s not. A seven-year study conducted at the University of Mannheim concluded that the daily practice of self-compassion positively impacted people’s quality of sleep.[13]

The concept of showing ourselves compassion is foreign (and uncomfortable) to many of us. Try going easy on yourself for being grumpy, and give yourself some credit for the efforts you are making in tough circumstances. What would you say to your best friend if they were struggling with the same situation? I routinely ask my clients this question as it’s sometimes easier to be compassionate to others than ourselves. This tip might take some practice, but the effort could result in a better night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Okay, there you have it—17 different ways you can help yourself manage shift work disorder, feel more rested, more like yourself, and enjoy life again. To get started with your plan, pick out a few tips that you can implement today, but remember to choose a well-rounded approach—addressing the physical, mental and emotional.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build new habits. And show yourself some compassion and kindness—you might just be able to sleep better when you do.

Featured photo credit: Yuris Alhumaydy via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next