Getting enough sleep is as important for your physical and mental health as it is to follow a balanced diet, drink enough water and breathe clean air. The consequences of not having enough sleep are detrimental to your everyday life, and without having enough sleep, you will find it very difficult to manage stress or to be able to concentrate during the day.
Sleep difficulties are more common than we might think and when we are feeling perpetually tired, our body’s change gears and hit reserve mode, trying everything it can to keep systems functioning at optimum levels.
The biggest issues with sleep deprivation are:
• Food Cravings: We crave high sugar and high fat processed carbs – in order to provide that immediate sugar rush, which makes us feel more awake and more focused after consuming them. The active high that is released is short lived and because of the low nutritional value, we don’t feel full for very long, craving the same food again. This will quickly lead to weight gain – which has a domino effect on our quickly failing energy levels and other negative health aspects if it continues.
• Problem Solving : Our brains are unable to process normal tasks when we are tired, and things like concentrating, paying attention, learning at school, college, uni or participation on a training course, are going to become that much more difficult or entirely impossible eventually. If your job requires you to use problem solving skills or to make quick decisions under stress, you are going to find that you are going to start becoming unable to perform these tasks efficiently.
• Aggressive Behavior – The inability to control emotions becomes a huge problem when we are tired. And high irritation levels, impatience and aggressive behavior can start to affect working and interpersonal relationships at the office and at home.
• Alcohol and Drug Abuse: When we are tired, we tend to crave more stimulants to help keep us awake, with caffeine and nicotine being the biggest stimulants that people turn to. Sleep deprivation could also lead to an increase in drug use – downers to help people get to sleep, and uppers to help people stay awake. Also when we are tired once glass of wine is going to make us a lot more tipsy than when we are not, and in combination with any medication or drugs – this could be a potentially hazardous situation.
• Weaken Our Immune System: When we are tired our immune system takes a big knock, as it needs the rest time for cell and muscle repair amongst other things. So when our system is overloaded and our body is working overtime just to function, it is using up valuable resources in our body, leaving a weakened immune system which is open to illness, colds and flu.
• Dangerous Driving: Driving while tired is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drowsy drivers need to pull off of the road and sleep in their car if they have to before carrying on with their journey. Operating equipment or machinery is also a hazard when you are tired, due to you not being able to concentrate properly.
There are many things to help you get back into the rhythm of regular sleep patterns, without going down the road of chemical assistance. Insomnia is only exacerbated by tranquilizers and chemical sleep aids in the long run. However, a few lifestyle and routine adjustments can make the world of difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Try some of these before you reach for the sleeping pills.
• Exercise: Regular exercise, at least 3 times a week, will get your heart rate up, gets your blood pumping and yours muscles working and build up a sweat. The endorphins that are released afterwards are some of the most powerful stress relievers in the world. In addition, after working up a good sweat, you will feel tired later on in the day, making it much easier for you to fall asleep and also stay asleep for the whole night. Walking is a great way to get rid of the pounds and get moving out into the fresh air.
• Routine: Routine is very important in getting your body’s sleep clock to kick back in. Babies who are kept on a strict routine start sleeping through the night much more quickly than other babies whose routine changes from day to day. Make sure that you go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day – even on weekends.
• Switch the TV off: Going to bed and then switching on the TV is not going to help you fall asleep; in fact it could help keep you awake for longer. Taking your laptop and your work with you to bed will do that as well. Switch the TV off, take out a good book and switch off your light at the same time every night. You may not feel like sleeping at first, but lying there in the dark will eventually get you to sleep. It won’t be long until your body gets used to it and you will start to feel sleepy before the light goes off.
• Climate Control: If you are feeling too hot or too cold, you are going to struggle to get to sleep, never mind stay asleep. Make sure you have an extra blanket if you need it, or put a fan on if it’s too hot. The best environment to induce sleep is one that is dark, cool and quiet. Make sure that your bed and pillows are soft and comfortable and are not going to make you too hot, or leave you cold in the middle of the night.
Author: Korah Morrison
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