We often put our own well-being to the back of the proverbial back burner in order to get ahead, but over time all this does is set us back. It’s estimated that nearly a third of the working world is sleep deprived, which may equal meeting short term deadline goals, but it doesn’t take long for a lack of sleep to begin to cut into success. Not only does it add to our stress and interrupt how we cope with it, but it creates a performance sink that is difficult to recover from.
Sleep is essential for our everyday mental and physical performance, and even one night shy of the recommended 7 to 9 hours adults need to function can begin to build up a sleep debt. Sleep debt causes your brain’s frontal lobe to essentially slow down: the area where decision making and impulse control takes place- resulting in the more sluggish, less focused you that might have been noticed after a long night trying to meet deadlines. Over time this can result in some pretty severe consequences including, but not limited to, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even stroke. Plus, most vehicular and industrial accidents are contributed to a lack of sleep.
In fact, the knowledge of how a lack of sleep can affect business performance has lead to many businesses worldwide providing areas for their employees to catch quick naps, or to consider a 15 to 20 minute shut eye a benefit to the company on a whole. These power naps essentially increase alertness and motor skills which translate into a more productive work environment.
There are many ways to take control of your sleep schedule if you are willing to schedule in a proper night’s rest. Getting to bed each night at the same time creates a good habit and helps reset our circadian rhythm, a natural cycle your body transitions through each day. Think of it like an internal alarm clock, which might help explain why you may wake each morning at the same time whether you have an alarm set or not. Once your body recognizes the time prior to approaching sleep, your body will naturally begin to prepare itself so you can fall asleep more easily and sleep deeper.
Your sleep comfort should also be a priority. Grabbing a few minutes of shut eye at your desk may be alright in the afternoon, but at home you need a comfortable place to rest so your body can relax and you can sleep uninterrupted. If you struggle to fall asleep each night, or toss and turn regularly, then you need to consider replacing what is most likely the culprit: your mattress. If you aren’t sure where to start then a good buying guide is all you need to get started. Many times people are unaware of just how influential their mattress is upon their comfort, and are also uninformed about what they need for proper body support.
Your sleep environment also plays a pretty valid role in your sleep quality. A cooler temperature (between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact) can help influence the natural temperature drop your body experiences as you sleep and support a deeper sleep. Also, dimming the lights and turning off electronics which mimic natural daylight through the blue light they emit- such as tablets, phones, and televisions- at least an hour before bed helps stimulate melatonin, a natural sleep hormone.
Avoiding stimulants, such as the fast carbs and caffeine we often turn to during the afternoon, for at least 6 hours prior to your bedtime This ensures that they are out of your system or your body may continue to process them, essentially sending signals to your brain that it is still at work, making it more difficult to drift off to sleep.
What Exactly Happens When We Sleep?
Hopefully by now you are convinced that a good night’s rest is more than just a beauty remedy to looking good. It is an important part of what not only keeps us going through the day, but also how we react and process the things around us. But if you need any further proof, consider what exactly happens to our bodies while we sleep:
Sleep Stages and Brain Function
As we sleep our brain cycles through a series of sleep stages. It takes approximately 90 minutes for one whole cycle to complete and then repeats, occasionally in different orders through the night. These stages support cognitive brain function and are believed to be associated with the regions of our brain that problem solve, retain memory, and make connections. Interrupting the processes of these stages can result in feeling tired and out of focus, even if you have gotten the suggested amount of hours for a good night’s rest.
Decrease in Temperature and Heart Rate
A drop in body temperature and a slowing of our heart (10 to 30 beats slower) occurs during the second stage of sleep. This relaxes our body and decreases our breathing, drops our blood pressure, and increases blood supply to our muscles and organs. This is when tissue growth and repair occurs, restorative healing can best take place, and energy is replenished.
Our immune system is also regenerated during this time. You may have noticed that when you have been sleeping poorly you may more easily get sick. This is because your body is more focused on putting energy towards everyday tasks rather than healing.
Cellular regeneration is part of this process as well. When people mention they need their beauty rest, they aren’t kidding. Cell growth and increased blood flow throughout the body helps keep us looking younger and more refreshed.
Sleep is essential for hormone production as well. Growth hormones are released through the night, which is why the correct amount of sleep for growing children is so important for both physical and brain development.
Hormones pertaining to how signals react in your brain can also be affected. For example, the hormones related to feeling full and trigger hunger actually are released incorrectly when your body is in sleep debt, which can lead to confusion related to your metabolism and how fat is stored. Weight gain is common amongst people who struggle to sleep due to this, which can eventually lead to longer lasting health conditions.
For women especially hormonal shifts due to poor sleep can be difficult to recover from, especially since by age 40 certain hormones fluctuations are beginning to drive changes within a woman’s body which may increase sleep disruptions. Getting a good night’s rest is important to help counterbalance these effects.
Sleep is crucial to long term health and success. Making it a priority truly should be a goal you have in order to help keep you alert and focused to make the most of your day. This is especially important in a fast paced work environment where it may feel as if skipping a few hours here and there might get you ahead, when in fact it won’t take long before you begin to fall behind.
Frank Apodaca strives to find the best night’s sleep possible for you through the testing of a variety of products and unbiased reviews you can find at The Sleep Judge. Through his years in the business he has come across a quite a few products, both good and bad, and knows quality when he sees it.