Parents, students, and health care workers have all been there. Schedules packed with tasks and work days that seem to grow longer and longer means that sleep often takes a backseat. We are constantly reducing the number of hours we sleep to get everything done.
I can admit that I, too, often fall into this trap, and struggled while writing this because at times it was hard for me to focus on the task at hand. But to be the best parents, students, and employees we can be, and for us to be the best communicators possible, we must start taking better care of ourselves!
We may be proud of how well we are “functioning” after getting little sleep. But in fact, deprivation causes more harm than most of us realize. Studies are ongoing, but research suggests that sleep deprivation can negatively impact cognitive abilities and the ability to maintain a healthy weight. It can also increase the risk of developing a number of chronic diseases.
As we sleep, our brain recharges and process. This is important for learning, memory processing, cellular repair and brain development. When we deprive our bodies of sleep, it is harder to learn and easier to forget things.
Recent studies have also found a possible link between sleep deprivation and obesity in adults and children. Even mild sleep deprivation affects the hormones that control hunger. When we don’t get enough sleep, our body produces more of the hormone gherlin which stimulates our appetites and less of the hormone leptin which regulates satiety. Sleep deprivation can also decrease our energy expenditure because we are too tired to be physically active. If you are finding it difficult to maintain a healthy weight despite eating well and exercising, allow yourself more time for sleep.
Lack of sleep can also increase your risk of developing some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and certain types of cancers. Physiologic studies suggest that sleep deprivation may put the body in a state of high alert, increasing stress hormone production and raising blood pressure. When we do not get enough sleep, our immune system reacts with an inflammatory response. When this response is chronic, it can be harmful to our health and our heart.
For the sake of your health, make an effort to get more sleep. The amount of sleep necessary varies from person to person, but the recommended amount is seven to nine hours a night. Some people need more sleep to be rested, while others need less. If you think you are getting the recommended amount of sleep and still do not feel rested, it may be time to visit your physician to see if you may suffering from a sleep disorder. In the meantime, here are some tips to help you get a more restful night’s sleep.