It’s no secret that we need sleep to function as humans. And it’s also no secret that most people don’t get enough sleep regularly. But why? How do we find ourselves in this peculiar situation, where so many of us suffer from a lack of sleep when our bodies need it so much? If you’re tired, irritable and have difficulty concentrating but still can’t manage to get enough sleep every night, you are not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately one in three adults doesn’t get enough sleep regularly. But getting the proper rest is crucial for your health and well-being. In fact, the effects of not getting enough rest can be pretty disastrous if left unchecked.
Reduced brain function
A lack of sleep doesn’t just leave you tired and sluggish; it also leaves your brain unable to function correctly. Studies show that less than 6 hours of sleep can significantly reduce your ability to process information and use critical thinking skills. If you’re a student or work in any creative field, you will know how important it is to have your brain operating fully. But when you’re sleep-deprived, your brain can’t think straight, and you can’t perform at your usual level. Sleep deprivation can cause issues with your memory, attention span and focus. It can also lead to reduced creativity and problem-solving skills. No one wants to be reduced to a drooling mess, but that’s what sleep deprivation can do to you.
Increased risk of poor heart health
According to a growing body of evidence, not getting enough sleep can increase your risk of developing many heart-related issues, including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. The increased risk of heart disease can be attributed to sleep deprivation leading to higher levels of cortisol and insulin, which can, in turn, raise your blood pressure. While the occasional sleep-deprived night won’t necessarily cause irreversible damage, it’s important to be aware of the risks. There’s no need to let your lack of sleep ruin your health.
Decreased immune system
Your body needs sleep to rejuvenate and repair itself. This is particularly true for your immune system, which uses rest to release antibodies to fight against infections and disease. However, your immune system is weakened and less effective when you don’t get enough sleep. Studies have shown that less than 7 hours of sleep can reduce your body’s immune response by as much as 40%. If you don’t get enough rest, you’re more likely to get sick. Getting a cold or the flu won’t just make you miserable; it can also cost you precious time and money.
Strategies to help you fall asleep faster
If you’re one of the millions of people suffering from chronic sleep deficiency, you should take steps to ensure you get enough rest. Luckily, you can do plenty of things to improve your sleep quality. Here are a few tips that can help you fall asleep faster:
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening: Caffeine is widely known to be a stimulant, which is why it’s so prevalent in energy drinks. However, caffeine can have the opposite effect on your sleep cycle.
- Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it causes you to urinate more frequently. When you urinate more often, you lose more water from your system, which can lead to dehydration.
- Stay active during the day: You might think exercising too close to bedtime will keep you awake. However, research shows that regular exercise, particularly in the morning or early afternoon, can improve your sleep quality significantly.
- Keep a sleep diary: If you want to improve your sleep quality, you need to know what works for you and what doesn’t. That’s why keeping a sleep diary is an excellent idea. In your sleep diary, you should record what you were doing before you went to sleep, how much caffeine you consumed during the day, what time you went to bed, how long it took to fall asleep and how long you slept. This will help you identify patterns and determine what’s keeping you awake at night.
- Create a sleeping environment that works for you: While sleeping is necessary for your health, it’s also unnatural. Humans aren’t supposed to lie down and fall asleep whenever they want. Cats are creatures that can fall asleep whenever they want, but humans don’t operate the same way. We need a certain amount of stimulation to fall asleep. That’s why it’s so easy to fall asleep on your couch while watching TV or in a boring meeting at work. While there’s no magic formula for creating the perfect sleeping environment, you can try a few things to help you drift off to sleep more easily. Dimming the lights, keeping your room cool and limiting noise pollution are a few easy things you can do.
- Don’t self-diagnose – Unfortunately, many people self-diagnose and think they have sleep apnea, a severe sleep disorder. While it’s true that many people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it, misdiagnosis is also common. Sleep apnea is diagnosed by measuring your breathing patterns while you sleep. If your doctor diagnoses you with sleep apnea, you will likely be prescribed a CPAP machine, a particular machine that helps reduce apnea symptoms.
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for your health, productivity and well-being. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough sleep regularly due to busy lifestyles, stressful jobs and unhelpful sleeping habits. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, you can do a few things to help improve your sleep quality. However, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of sleep deprivation listed above, it may be time to reevaluate your sleeping habits and make some changes to get your ZZZs.