We are hearing from everyone all the time how important sleep is. I don’t know how your calendar looks, but mine is packed, often with things scheduled as early as 7 in the morning and ending at 9:30 at night. Does your candle burn at both ends?
When I think back to the times in my life where I got 5-ish hours of sleep or less I also recall the coffee I needed to wake up, the groggy feeling that followed me all morning, the lack of energy I felt, moodiness, higher stress levels, and a constant sense of being overwhelmed. Any of those things are reason enough to find the source and terminate it. Study after study tells us how important sleep is to our vitality, to our life in general. With all this research, why are we not getting the hint and sleeping more? Our culture plays a huge role in the fast-paced, never miss a thing, workaholic type of lifestyle that undercuts so many of our efforts to live well and sleep well.
Sleep studies show nights of sleep disruption for 14 consecutive nights show the same negative impacts as sleep deprivation for 2 nights, specifically that cognitive functioning decreases steadily while the experience of sleepiness plateaus. The individual may not feel very tired but their brain is not operating at full capacity. 1
Rapid Eye Movement sleep, or REM sleep, is a deeper quality of sleep and researchers with the American Psychosomatic Society have linked increased REM sleep with
decreased subjective emotional responsiveness to negative stimuli and a decrease in amygdala reactivity
These same researchers found,
Poor sleep efficiency has been related to lower levels of perceived social support . . . perceived social support moderates the link between threat-related amygdala reactivity and trait anxiety. In addition, poor sleep may likely cluster with other negative health behaviors. 2
The bottom line is when you get don’t get enough sleep (approximately 8 hours or more for adults) you experience:
- Decreased Brain Functioning
- More Mood Swings
- Less Social Support
- More Unhealthy Behaviors
With that being said, the no-brainer is to start sleeping more so you can reduce your level of stress, feel better physically and emotionally, and get more done while you are awake. Easily said, not easily done. So here are 3 easy ways to get more sleep.
Set a Bed Time for Yourself
If you have kids this gets a little trickier, but if their bedtime is 9, your is 10:30. Make it a priority to get to bed by 10:30 every night, or the time that makes the most sense for your schedule. If you can sleep until 8 then 11:30 may be a better bedtime for you. Before we had the luxury of lightbulbs and technology we had the sun to mark our days, when it went down we started working our way to bed. Getting to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning does so much to regulate your body and get yourself on a schedule. The more consistent you are the easier this is.
Stop Drinking Caffeine After 3 pm
I have definitely been guilty of the 3:30 coffee to get me through the end of my work-day. The problem with caffeine late in the day is it leaves our nerves agitated and postpones the body’s ability to sleep. When you hit that afternoon slump instead of hitting a cup of Joe, take a walk around your office, do 15 jumping jacks, if you are really ambitious do a 2 min headstand. You will feel more energized and better able to tackle the end of your day without killing your sleep cycle.
Avoid Electronics with Back-lit Screens in the Evening
Do your eyes ever feel dry after you have spent most of the day on your computer? Yep, you have experienced eye agitation first hand. The blue light that is incorporated into your computer screen is incredibly stimulating for your brain and it agitates the eye. Sitting in front of your computer, tablet, or phone before bed is like giving a child a piece of cake with ice cream and 30 minutes later at the peak of that sugar rush telling them to go to bed. The solution is to stop using electronics after 8 pm or to install f.lux on your devices to naturally take out the blue light in the computer screen. This happens gradually and will help your eyes and brain adjust naturally with the time of day. There is also the option to get a pair of glasses like the ones I wear to protect your eyes from the harsh light.
I have made all these changes in my life over the past year and my quality and consistency of sleep has increased greatly, I physically feel better, and I get sick less often.
Have you experienced the negative effects of poor sleep? How have you dealt with it? 3
- Kerkhof, G., & Van Dongen, H. (2010). Total sleep deprivation, chronic sleep restriction and sleep disruption. In Progress in Brain Research (No ed., Vol. 185, pp. 91-103). New York, NY: Elsevier. ↩
- Prather, A., Bogdan, R., & Hariri, A. (2013). Impact of sleep quality on amygdala reactivity, negative affect, and pervieved stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 75, 1-9. ↩
- Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953 ↩