Nearly a third of Americans do not get enough sleep. It's a big problem that presents widespread issues throughout the country. It's sad. Nobody really talks about how big of a deal not getting enough sleep is. The problem of sleep deprivation probably affects the college age group the most and I believe getting enough sleep is one of the most important steps to preserve your mind and body. Stresses at your occupation or with your family can result in a sleepless night. Other causes include problems with people's diet or how much exercise they get. The reason that sleep is so important is because that is because that is the time when the body rebuilds itself and your mind gets to rest and recharge. While we are awake, our bodies are constantly experiencing wear and tear while our brains undergo constant stimulation and possibly strenuous activity. That's why it is so unhealthy to not give yourself enough time to regenerate. Let's look at a couple of effects of chronic sleep deprivation.
1. Decreased Alertness
This may cause your attention to drift away from whatever you are trying to focus on. That includes tasks at work or in school. Decreased alertness lowers your effectiveness and slows you down in general. It will be more difficult to think creatively or find solutions to your problems.
2. Increased Sleepiness
This is a big one. Increased sleepiness can cause many problems for you from falling asleep in the movie theater to falling asleep behind the wheel of your car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that there are at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities from drowsy driving each year. This is a scary statistic especially for me because I used to have a real problem with feeling drowsy behind the wheel. Thankfully, I was never in an accident but if I would not have made serious efforts to prevent feeling drowsy behind the wheel, then who knows whether I'd even still be alive.
3. Medical Issues
Researchers used the height and weight of 1,429 ninth-graders to help build a pool of data. They found that every extra hour of sleep was associated with a reduction of body mass index (BMI). Even still, it was the heaviest teenagers that benefited the most from the extra sleep. They found that the heaviest teenagers saw an average reduction of 0.28 (BMI) per extra hour of sleep they got. Getting enough sleep supports your metabolism and helps prevent obesity. Other, more serious, medical issues include high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. When your body is taking wear and tear, but you refuse to help give it enough time to recover, many negative things can happen. Your body will break down faster. Your mind will break down faster.
You might say, “I don’t get much sleep because I have too much to do these days.” I would then ask, “If you are so busy, why would you deprive yourself from the necessary sleep that your body needs to function? When your body can function at 100%, you will be so much more productive during the day.”
Now that I’ve told you why getting enough sleep is such a big deal, let’s explore finding some solutions that can help everybody get back on track.
1. Set a Bedtime
Getting to bed on time is all about setting up a routine. Set a bedtime and stick with it. If you need work up to it, set an achievable bedtime and then every week move your bedtime a little closer to your goal. This approach will make the transition easier on you. Keep in mind; you MUST be extremely consistent about getting in the bed at your predetermined time. Consistency is how habits form.
2. Avoid Caffeine Before Bed
Try to avoid taking on any caffeine at least 4 hours before attempting to go to bed. Obviously, caffeine is a stimulant and needs to be avoided before bed in most circumstances. However, not everyone is affected by caffeine the same way. For example, I used to have to go to the gym around 10 o’clock at night, work out for 90 minutes, shower and go to sleep. Essentially, I was drinking a pre-workout supplement (which contained the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee) only two hours before going to bed. In the six months that I was doing that, I only recall one time having trouble falling asleep at night. My point being not everyone is affected in the same way by caffeine. Some people are actually not affected at all by caffeine.
3. Avoid Excessive Napping During The Day
Sometimes taking a 2-hour nap after work or school will not have a positive effect on that night’s sleep quality. I’ve found that staying awake and continuing to be active or productive until it starts getting dark (2-3 hours before bedtime) makes me sleep like a baby. Excessive napping also messes up something called your circadian rhythm. Basically, your circadian rhythm is in control of when you start feeling tired and when you start feeling awake.
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