By Jessica Sly
Are you feeling sleepy? Do you feel as though you could nod off at any moment during the day? Then I hate to break it to you, but you might be sleep deprived.
Some people believe that they can learn to get by on little sleep without adverse effects, but research shows that’s not the case. Without enough sleep, you could develop long-term problems in decision making, remembering things, focusing and more.
According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adults have problems sleeping a few nights each week.
Did you know that there’s such a thing as sleep debt? For instance, if you lose an hour of sleep, you will have a sleep debt of seven hours after a week. And it keeps accumulating.
The first step to catching up on sleep is allowing yourself the time to sleep. That may seem silly, but sleep is one of the first things busy people cut out of their schedules.
It will also help to start going to bed earlier each night. Try keeping a record of how long it takes you to fall asleep, how long you sleep and how rested you feel in the morning.
Here are other strategies for sleeping well:
• Develop a regular sleep/wake schedule and don’t deviate by more than an hour, even on weekends.
• Limit artificial light and strenuous exercise an hour before bed.
• Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine or heavy meals at least a couple hours before bed.
• Stay active and spend time outside during the day.
• Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
• Take naps, but limit them to no more than 20 minutes for adults.
If you can conquer sleep deprivation, not only will you do away with those nasty side effects, but you’ll gain many benefits.
Improve memory: While you’re sleeping, your mind prepares for the next day by committing new information to memory. So if you’re trying to learn something new, you’ll do it better after sleeping.
Stay healthy: Sleep loss can weaken your immune system. Sleep deprivation is also linked to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. While you sleep, your body repairs heart and blood vessels.
Maintain a healthy weight: Sleep deprivation can affect the way that your body stores and processes carbohydrates, significantly affecting the way that you gain or lose weight. More sleep contributes to a higher metabolism.
Lower stress: Enough sleep can put you in a better mood by decreasing stress and irritability. Not enough sleep can make you too tired to do the things you enjoy.
Avoid accidents: In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that sleepiness accounted for the highest number of fatal single-car run-off crashes. Getting enough sleep keeps you alert and focused.
Sources: www.health.com, www.health.harvard.edu, www.nhlbi.nih.gov, www.apa.org