There are probably a thousand reasons you’ve missed some sleep. Tax deadlines… pressure to work extra hours… getting the house ready for guests… The list is endless.
When it happens, you probably tell yourself, “I’ll make up for it on the weekend.”
Unfortunately, you can’t.
Sleep deprivation is as serious as it is common. And recent research says you simply can’t make up for nights of lost sleep.1 which is bad news for your body.
Few people know sleep like Stanford University’s Dr. William Dement. He’s been studying and teaching about sleep for years. And he reports that more than half of all adults have a problem with daytime drowsiness.
Drowsiness is more serious than you might think, too. Researchers in New Zealand discovered that people missing just a few hours of sleep performed like people with a blood alcohol level of 0.05%.2 that’s not quite legally drunk… but it’s a good buzz.
That means half the cars you pass each day are driven by an accident waiting to happen. Half the workers at construction sites aren’t fully alert. Half the pharmacists filling prescriptions are more likely to make a mistake. And you may not be running at peak efficiency yourself.
But drowsiness is just one effect of sleep deprivation. Losing sleep can have some serious health effects…
- When you don’t get enough sleep, your thinking and reasoning is impaired. Bradley University scientists discovered it can also wreck your mood.3
- Losing sleep leads to a spike in the stress hormone, cortisol, and the following night. This may lower your ability to deal with stress.4
- Getting too little sleep impairs your immune system, too. Missing just a few hours of sleep lowers immune cell activity.5
- Sleep deprivation can also raise your blood pressure, according to a study in the journal Hypertension.6
- Not getting enough sleep can even undermine your diet. In a Wisconsin study, sleep-deprived dieters lost 55% less fat than those who got a good night’s sleep.7
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to improve your sleep… and they’re remarkably easy.
First, get regular exercise. It will keep you wakeful during the day – so you’ll be sleepier at night. Afternoon exercise seems to be most effective for promoting a good night’s rest.
Keep a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed around the same time every night… and get up around the same time every morning. If you get to bed late one night, it’s better to get out of bed at your usual time. Sleeping in can throw off your body clock.
If you’re groggy in the morning, here are three tricks to help get yourself awake.
- First, let in the sun – or turn on the lights. Light helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
- Next, take three deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose very deeply, and then exhale through your mouth. You’ll be amazed at how alert this simple exercise will make you.
- Third, walk around a bit. Your calf muscles are like pumps… they’ll help get more blood to your brain.
Finally, avoid napping – especially if you haven’t been sleeping well. Daytime naps can rob you of normal nighttime sleep. If you must nap, stick to a “power nap” of about 20 minutes. And don’t nap at all later than early afternoon.
Your best plan is to allow yourself about 8 hours of sleep a night. Of course, that’s not always possible.
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
Best Life Herbals
1 Åkerstedt T, et al. Sleep Homeostasis During Repeated Sleep Restriction and Recovery: Support from EEG Dynamics. Sleep. 2009 February 1; 32(2): 217–222.
2 Williamson AM and Feyer A-M. Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occup Environ Med 2000;57:649-655.
3 Pilcher JJ and Huffcutt AI. Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis. Sleep. 1996 May;19(4):318-26.
4 Leproult R, et al. Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep, 1997, vol. 20, no10, pp. 865-870.
5 Irwin M, et al. Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans. The FASEB Journal, Vol 10, 643-653.
6 Kato M, et al. Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Neural Circulatory Control. Hypertension, 2000;35:1173-1175.
7 Nedeltcheva AV, et al. Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 153, no. 7 435-441, October 5, 2010.