The effects of sleep deprivation are more widespread than you think.
Did you get enough sleep last night? Or are you part of the nearly one-third of Americans who are chronically sleep deprived?
You may think that sleep deprivation means more daytime yawning or maybe a late afternoon caffeine boost, but the effects go far beyond that. Losing sleep can hurt your health, your work, and your family.
Here’s why you can’t afford to miss out on a good night’s rest.
Bad Sleep Is Bad for Your Health
Your body needs sleep. Adequate rest helps with proper functioning, whereas a lack of sleep affects systems throughout the body, including your nervous, cardiovascular, and digestive systems. Studies even show that sleep deprivation can affect the immune system in much the same way physical stress does.
The health risks don’t end there. Sleep deprivation affects your ability to safely go about your day. The National Transportation Safety Board identified fatigue as a factor in nearly 20 percent of accidents involving all modes of transportation. Simply driving to work becomes more dangerous when you’re short on sleep. And if your job involves any vehicles or heavy machinery, you’ll be at even further risk.
It’s no wonder the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls sleep deprivation “a public health problem.” For the sake of your health and safety, you need to sleep well.
Lack of Sleep Hurts Your Work
Assuming your declining health doesn’t keep you home, your lack of sleep will also be detrimental to your work. Sleep deprivation negatively affects your mood, memory, logical reasoning, and ability to concentrate — the very things that help you excel at your job. Researchers have found that a lack of sleep inhibits your decision-making abilities, which could lead to costly mistakes at work.
These possibilities aren’t just hypothetical. A recent study found that the average worker loses over 11 days of productivity every year due to insomnia. It’s estimated that a lack of sleep among workers costs the U.S. economy $411 billion a year.
It Affects Your Family
The effects of sleep deprivation follow you home, too. Did you know worse sleep can lead to a worse marriage? The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that a night of bad sleep made both marital partners more likely to view their marriage negatively, even if just one spouse slept poorly. As if that weren’t enough, researchers have found that poor sleep impairs your conflict resolution skills and reduces your ability to empathize with your partner.
Sleep deprivation also affects your abilities as a parent. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep makes it more difficult to manage your emotions and may lead to the “zombie effect,” in which parents have a reduced ability to express joy.
What You Can Do About It
Before you get too discouraged, remember that there’s an obvious way to combat the problems of sleep deprivation: get enough sleep. While that may seem easier said than done, there are simple ways you can improve your quality of rest.
Improve your sleep environment
Make your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. You can improve your sleep by ensuring your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. Remove distractions from the room, including electronics and clutter. Sarah Brown, a sleep expert with Sleep Train, also suggests replacing your mattress. “Your mattress can make or break your sleep,” Brown warns. “All the sleep hacks in the world won’t help if you’re spending eight hours on an unsupportive, uncomfortable surface.” If you think your mattress is keeping you up, it’s time to invest in something better.
Try creating a regular sleep schedule. Plan for sleep like you would plan for any other important event, including a start and end time. Try to keep these times consistent each day, and resist the temptation to sleep in on weekends. Even if it’s difficult, don’t let yourself use the snooze button. Your schedule will help ensure you’re getting enough sleep, and waking up should get easier over time.
Get Professional Help
If adjusting your environment and your schedule doesn’t help you sleep better, there could be other underlying problems. Don’t hesitate to get professional help. Remember, a lack of sleep takes a serious toll on your life. It’s absolutely worth getting help from a sleep specialist if you need relief.
Don’t let a lack of rest negatively affect your life. Know the risks of sleep deprivation, and make sleep a priority. Your body, your boss, and your family will thank you.