You may have heard that it’s optimal for people to get between eight and nine hours of sleep per night.
You also may have responded with: “ha! Who’s got the time for that?”
It sounds like a staggering amount of time, especially to a parent. You’re trying to fit as much into life as possible, so why would you want to surrender so much time away to literally doing nothing?
Maybe the right way to persuade people to get the right sleep isn’t telling them why they should. Hearing that sleep gives your body a chance to heal and even build memories… they sound like nice things. But they don’t sound essential. It doesn’t sound as tempting as a night out with friends, having a date night with your partner or even the simple pleasure of diving into that book you have been wanting to read for weeks. Most of us would choose these activities over an early night, even if we know that we’re meant to sleep a certain quota per night.
So rather than convincing of the benefits, perhaps it’d be more impactful to talk about what happens if you do abandon the need for regular sleep. While eight or nine hours might be pushing it, getting at least six hours sleep per night is essential. If not, the following will quickly raise their head and make themselves known…
Sleep Deprivation Will Make You Stupid
That’s both in terms of how you act and the long-term impact on intelligence.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain doesn’t have the chance to refresh and balance the neurons that control the way that you think. Before long, you’re going to have misfires – you won’t form memories in the same way and you’ll begin to forget how to complete basic tasks.
In the short term, lack of sleep can cause perilously slow reaction times. This goes as far as some scientists suggesting driving while exhausted is more dangerous than when driving drunk. The TV show Mythbusters examined this theory and, what’s more, they were able to confirm it.
Sleep Deprivation Will Make You Gain Weight
This correlation has been proven time and time again. When you don’t sleep, your body produces high levels of cortisol. Cortisol – which keeps you in a permanent “fight or flight” status on a cellular level – means that you’re hoarding calories. Your body is preparing to run for its life, so it will increase fat stores wherever possible. Sleeping lowers cortisol, so it should be first and foremost if you’re trying to shift weight.
There’s also an element of impulse control here. If you’re short on sleep, then it’s a lot more difficult to tell yourself that you don’t want a third helping of cake. Your brain is shuttered into survival mode, and it sees food as an essential that shouldn’t be turned down. It’s a lot easier to focus and refuse to over-indulge if you’re not tired.
Finally on this note, if you’re tired, you’re going to suffer more with hunger. That’s because you’re genuinely going to feel hungrier. This happens because your body is exhausted and is thus struggling to generate energy. As a result, it seeks out the best form of energy it can find: calories. What’s more, it’s not going to make you think a salad or a handful of nuts is sufficient. It’s going to crave quick calories packed with sugar, which as glucose in the body is the quickest, simplest form of energy. Try turning down the cake when every cell in your body is screaming out for it!
Sleep Deprivation Will Harm Your Relationships With Others
Including your partner and your children. One of the first things to go with long-term sleep deprivation is your ability to control your temper. You will snap, react badly to mild problems, and generally be more irritable.
There’s no point putting yourself through this kind of stress just for a lack of sleep. If you take the way you nurture relationships seriously – and let’s face it, everyone should and most do – then sleep can have a huge impact on those relationships. While you might be able to apologise for any loss of temper at a later date, it’s still not going to take the sting out of the moment where you lost your cool.
So Can You Make Yourself Love Sleep?
Reframing your thinking and seeing sleep as the ultimate measure of self-care takes some doing, but there are a few tricks you can use:
- Make your bed as inviting as possible. If you have luxurious sheets and a mattress you want to sink into, then you’re going to be happier to spend time there. It’s a good idea to learn about your bed and how to make it better. Begin with asking yourself what you prefer (Firm or soft mattresses? Down or synthetic pillows?) and then do your research. There’s plenty of information out there, such as where Somzi examines foam vs. spring mattresses and the benefits of silk pillowcases vs. regular cotton are explored.
- Keep the same sleep schedule on weekdays and weekends. By having a “lie in”, you’re disturbing your circadian rhythm and making it more difficult to sleep during the week.
- Nap if you feel the need. A 40-minute nap can rejuvenate you better than any cup of coffee will ever be able to. Even a shorter “cat nap” will give your system a boost. If you really want to maximise the benefits of a power nap, then drink the coffee before you shut your eyes. By the time you wake up, the caffeine will be filtering into your system as an extra boost.
So while sleep might feel like a waste of time, it’s actually an essential tool. It’s what let’s you be you, give you the energy you need, and even so far as to look the way that you want. So catch up on your beauty sleep and you’ll feel better in every conceivable way.