No doubt you’ve been there when it comes to late nights and tired mornings. It’s not uncommon for people to struggle to get to bed early enough for the recommended amount of sleep they need. What most people don’t realize is the long-term effects it can have on their bodies. Below is some insight into what lack of sleep is doing to your body and what you can do to combat it.
If you miss sleep one night, you may have some dark shadows under your eyes, accompanied by some yawning. Maybe one night of missed sleep will cause you to dose at an inopportune time. Chances are, one night of sleep won’t affect you too badly, especially if you take a nap during the day. However, if one night of bad sleep turns into a long-term problem, then you’ll have to worry about more than covering up circles. Consistent shortened sleep can affect your metabolic health, causing you to feel sluggish, not want to exercise, and even put on weight. Not having proper metabolic health affects your mood and hormones. You can become frustrated more easily and find yourself not wanting to spend time doing things you would normally love. Your body needs time to rest and recoup, but if it’s not given that time, you could age faster, have trouble with your metabolism, and find your temper flaring.
Brain fog is a horrible state to be. Struggling to pay attention or respond cohesively affects every aspect of your day. You don’t want to be making the wrong decision because you can’t think clearly, especially at a job. Whether you work in a high-stakes position or a less demanding one, you need your memory to be sharp and clear to keep performing tasks. Long-term lack of sleep affects your memory and can make it difficult to process information and remember. Not being alert or recalling things can frustrate people in your life and affect the quality of conversations and connections you’ll have.
Proof From Back Studies
Studies show sleep deprivation has long-term effects regardless of your age. Unfortunately, a couple of good nights of sleep will not allow the human body to bounce back the way it needs to from sleep deprivation. It could take over a week's worth of restful sleep to make up for the exhaustion your body is experiencing. The idea that sleep deprivation affects over 45% of the population seems unreal. Most people don't get the opportunity to make up for their restless nights with over a week's worth of good sleep. Instead, many people continue the cycle of pushing their bodies to the limits. Those limits play a role in underperforming cognitive tasks. If a person works a high-stakes job, underreacting could have dangerous effects on those around them, not to mention themselves. It's clear that your brain needs sleep, and if you don't listen to it, your body is in trouble.
Quality of Life
You’re not living your best life if you’re constantly tired and unmotivated. You want to feel energized and able to pursue fun activities or goals. Persistent lack of sleep affects your entire outlook on life and can cause depression to set in, along with the other unfortunate side effects mentioned earlier. The last thing you need is to feel down and continue the lack of sleep cycle. However, if you’ve let yourself become sleep deprived, you’ll need to focus on good sleep for a good long while to get yourself back in your body’s normal rhythm.
Combating Sleep Deprivation
If you’re stuck in a bad habit of little sleep, begin making the changes your body needs by changing your sleep schedule. Find a schedule you can stick to and make sure you’re turning screens off before your bedtime. Reducing blue light will help your mind not be stimulated, and if you start a relaxing routine before bed, your body will respond and wind down. Change into comfortable pajamas, wash your face, and grab a favorite book. Let yourself get used to the quiet and minimal screen time so you can get the most out of your sleep. A tried-and-true classic of drinking warm milk before bed may help you get into a relaxed mood. If you can’t stand the thought of milk, drink caffeine-free tea and enjoy the time to breathe. Focus on making your new bedtime routine something you can look forward to.
Sleep deprivation takes a lot longer to recover from than people think. Those poor sleeping choices add up in the long run, and before you know it, it’s affecting how fast you age, your metabolic health, what you can remember, and your overall quality of life. If you’re suffering from a long-term lack of sleep, you’re not alone and can turn the behavior around. Find a new bedtime schedule, cut your screen time, and set a relaxing routine in place so you can look forward to your sleep. Your body will thank you.
If you find yourself dozing off while reading, watching tv, talking to someone, sitting in the classroom, or in traffic, sleep deprivation may be the reason. The best course of action is to start journaling when you find yourself falling asleep or dozing off.
Many people report an improved mood and better memory, greater mindfulness, and reduced stress. At the same time, research has shown journaling to reduce symptoms in cancer patients and improve patient health after a heart attack.
What to Track for Your Doctor:
- Wake up and bedtime
- The last time and meal you last ate
- The season and room temperature
- How tired you were at work
- The last drink you took (water, caffeine)
- Any medications you took
- Time of day and amount of exercise during the day
If you do not know where to start, writing prompts can be a good place to start if you are stuck. For example:
- I can’t sleep because I’m worried about…
- Today I felt…
- In life right now, I feel...
- I can’t sleep because tomorrow I have to…
- I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about how to fix…
- I can’t sleep because I’m mad about…
- I wish I would have ____ today...
- I can’t sleep because I have an idea about…
If you have never been diagnosed or seen a doctor over your sleep deprivation, consider contacting The Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free 10-minute phone call with a sleep educator who can help determine if a sleep study is necessary or if a consultation with our sleep specialist needs to be scheduled.