You snooze you lose? More like if you don’t snooze, you lose! It might be time to start thinking about the implications of your late and sleepless nights.
Tossing and turning all night or working through the nights could be having a bigger effect on you than you may think. It could come at a high cost to your health, performance and quality of life. But before we get into those impacts, let’s explore what quality sleep actually is and how you can distinguish it.
What is deep, quality sleep?
The National Sleep Foundation produced a large research report which identified four key sleep goals that can be used to judge how well a person sleeps. In summary, they found that the following could indicate bad sleeping patterns and not getting enough quality sleep:
- Taking longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep
- Waking up for 5 minutes or longer multiple times a night
- Taking longer than 20 minutes to fall back asleep after waking up
- Being asleep for less than 85% of the time you're in bed
If you ticked one or more of those boxes, you'll probably want to read on.
The recommended amount of quality sleep you should be getting each night is between 6-8 hours and oversleeping more than that isn’t recommended. Good quality sleep allows your body and mind to renew and rejuvenate, keeping you at your best daily performance.
Bad sleep can affect you physically
Sleep plays an important role in keeping your immune system in check. When you’re sleep-deprived, your immune function is compromised and it can make you more susceptible to catching the flu and other infections.
Sleep also helps regulate body temperature, hormone levels and digestion. If you stay up late, you might feel cold and experience changes in your appetite, like cravings or a loss of appetite completely. Sleeping fewer than six hours a night can also put your heart at risk, increasing the risk of developing high blood pressure.
In some extreme cases, a lack of constant sleep can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity. In fact, according to Healthline, “a review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night increases the risk of early death by about 12 percent.”
Not only does bad sleep make you feel physically unwell, it can also make you look unwell too. The most commonly known being ‘bags under the eyes’, premature wrinkling and sagging of the skin. Getting solid shuteye can also enhance physical attributes that may improve your overall performance, including your energy levels, coordination and endurance.
Bad sleep can affect you mentally
I think we've all, at some point, experienced how a lack of sleep can make you function poorly. Here are just a few ways sleep deprivation can affect you mentally:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment
- Chronic fatigue
- Poor performance at work
But sleep loss also affects you emotionally, changing your mood and your behavior, and often making you irritable and short-tempered with your family and others around you. This can also often put a strain on your personal relationships.
What can you do about it?
Whilst fueling your lack of sleep with stimulants like coffee, might help momentarily, you’re not getting to the core of the issue and you’re opening up the opportunity to weaken physically, mentally and emotionally.
Start making a conscious decision to go to sleep earlier each night and have a "wind down" routine like reading in bed or stretching. Don't consume any liquid an hour before bed to reduce the chance of interrupted sleep. Another way to make sure you get the sleep you need is to leave your cellphone in another room, which forces you to get up and switch it off when the alarm goes off the next morning.
INTERESTING FACT: Besides being a distraction to your wind down routine and sleep, it's also been proven that the radio signals and the bright light from your cell phone interrupt your sleeping patterns.
Stick to these small tips and you'll be counting minimal sheep in no time.