If you’ve been catching reruns of the original 90210 instead of catching up on sleep, you might not be alone. Dozing off at work, partying hard, or leaving permanent handprints on your snooze button could all be related to sleep deprivation. We all toss the term around, but sleep deprivation is a common, and serious problem.
Sleep deprivation is a consistent lack of sleep over a certain period of time. When a person does not get enough sleep, they accumulate a sleep debt. Sleep debt can cause fatigue, irritability, loss of concentration, and fatal accidents. Sleep debt can be calculated by allowing a person to sleep and wake up naturally. When this is done over a period of a few weeks and averaged, a number of “ideal” hours of sleep can be calculated for each individual. Each day that you sleep less than your ideal number, you are building a sleep debt. Eventually a significant sleep debt can affect your daily life. In addition to losing focus, feeling exhausted, looking haggard, and being less efficient, sleep debt can have other major consequences. When the body feels enough sleep deprivation, you may find yourself falling into microsleeps. This is sleep that lasts only a few seconds during periods where the body is not as physically active or stimulated. This means microsleep can occur during important meetings or even while driving. In fact, according to one study people who slept less than four hours or greater than 10 hours had a higher mortality rate.
Another reason you might want to make catching some Z’s a priority is that inadequate sleep has also been shown to cause increased appetite, overeating and weight gain. Multiple studies and trials have shown that sleep deprivation can cause hormones in the body that regulate hunger and satisfaction to become negatively affected. One particular study showed that people who slept less than 8 hours had a higher percentage of body fat. So before you reach for that 100-calorie pack to satisfy your hunger, think twice because you might want to reach for your pillow instead. Here are some tips to make sure you are sleeping better:
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: It’s not what you think. Although regular showers are always a plus, sleep hygiene has to do with what you do to get ready for bed. Who doesn’t like catching a little Chelsea Lately before hitting the sack? Harmless, right? Watching TV right before bed makes it difficult to quiet the mind, get to sleep, and stay asleep. Instead, try reading or listening to some relaxing music before bed. This is likely to help you sleep better and stay asleep.
Avoid drinking: A booze jacket may keep you warm in cold weather, but it might keep you up all night. Drinking alcohol before bed makes sleep less restful and often causes breaks in sleep overnight. It can sometimes help you fall asleep but you may end up waking up throughout the night and feel much less rested in the morning. Not to mention, too much alcohol can give you a terrible hangover, among other things.
Work it out: Getting regular exercise has been shown to help people get to sleep faster and stay asleep. Avoid working out right before bed because this may give you a surge of energy. If you can’t hit the gym in the morning, give yourself at least 2 hours before you plan to sleep to finish exercising.
Don’t underestimate the power of getting enough rest. Adequate sleep can help improve your memory and keep you looking healthy, so hide your remote and get to bed!