CDC reports that 1 in 3 American adults don’t get enough sleep at night. Sleep has been a part of our lives since birth, but do we really know what benefits sleep has for us? During exam preparation, practicing for a game, or getting ready for another important event in life, we are told to sleep well to restore and strengthen our bodies for tomorrow. While that is true, not many people realize how valuable sleep is.
Nobody likes “wasting” 8-9 hours of their day on something that provides nothing tangible, but that’s where the majority is wrong. The most successful people, for example, Bill Gates has said that people need 7-8 hours of sleep each night, even if they believe or think otherwise.
In our fast-moving world, we are aiming to boost our productivity, often by compromising on sleep. But in the long-run, does this habit impede upon our overall performance?
Let’s take a look.
The Cost of Sleeping Less
It may baffle people when it is said that irregular sleeping hours cost in real terms. Yes, they cost money, and there’s evidence of it.
Sleep deprivation can be extremely detrimental for the economy, as the U.S experiences a loss of 1.2 million working days per annum due to it.
Due to lack of sleep at night, employees tend to compensate for the lost hours by sleeping during working hours. This results in skipping work or even facing illness.
According to Science Daily, sleep deprivation increases the risk of mortality by a staggering 13%.
The widespread practice of sleeping less than 7 hours per night is prevalent in almost all the sectors, whether the subject is employees in an organization or surgeons in a hospital.
People who sleep less have a higher chance of committing errors at work, whereas people who sleep well are more attentive and focused while doing their jobs.
Matt Walker’s TED talk explains everything you need to know about sleep. He describes how sleeping 8 hours a night can significantly improve the learning and remembering capabilities of individuals.
This explains why students have a difficult time during tests trying to remember the information they crammed last night by waking up the whole night.
Matt also explains how less sleep can amount to fatal diseases like different types of cancer and even heart attack that happens quite regularly. Sleep is your best chance at immortality, says Matt.
Fruits of Consistent Sleep
Now that we’ve brushed over the costs of inconsistent and improper sleep, it’s only logical to see what happens when we sleep properly.
When you sleep less, your productivity declines, so going by that logic, more sleep should amount to better productivity.
Sleeping consistently every night without allowing yourself to get disturbed can provide you with the following fruits:
- Greater learning capability
- Better retention and memory
- Less risk of developing diseases
- Fewer chances of making mistakes or mishaps
- Better mood
- Ease in solving queries
- Lower chances of becoming obese
- Fewer chances of experiencing a burnout
People often think that just the quantity of sleep matters. However, the quality of your sleep matters, as well.
Around 32% of Americans don’t receive good-quality sleep, and by a good-quality sleep, we mean that peaceful sleep, without finding the need to wake up every few hours or so to either check your phone for notifications or any other task at hand.
Moving forward, students who miss their sleep due to homework, exam preparation, or extra-curricular activities observe a fall in their grades and GPAs.
It has been reported that having a quality sleep can be beneficial for students, helping them retain more information and take a better shot at improving grades.
How to Improve Productivity?
The recipe to increase your productivity involves two basic ingredients:
- Proper Sleep
- Consistent Sleep
We’ll speak the harsh truth. If you are lazy at work, chances are, you are not getting enough sleep at home.
At night, our bodies restore and allow us to relax physically and mentally, and waking up in 4-6 hours will produce an individual with lower levels of energy and a higher chance of making errors at work.
Sleep deprivation is not limited to 1 or 2 avenues; in fact, it depreciates a person’s health completely, as Hult.edu explains.
One study explains how people who slept less than 7 hours per night on average were three times more likely to develop a cold.
Sleep-deprived workers exhibit dull behavior and can’t focus attentively at work.
While sleep deprivation destroys our physical health, it also takes a toll on our emotional well-being at the same time. Sleep deprivation may make us irritable, angry and impatient.
During the night, an essential part of your sleep is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement), and this sleep is where the magic happens.
Your brain promotes learning during this phase and creates dreams.
Furthermore, your muscles and tissues undergo wear and tear throughout the day, and this phase exists to restore and repair them for another day to fight.
So now it must be easy to understand how individuals who miss out on their REM sleep find it difficult to even pass through a typical day.
People compare sleep deprivation with the state of being drunk, and it’s a sound comparison since less sleep can make you dull, respond slowly, and lose the ability to focus.
The second ingredient to achieving productivity is consistent sleep.
CDC reports that in order to avoid cardiovascular diseases and memory loss, 7 hours of sleep per night is necessary.
When sleep schedules are distorted, cognitive abilities experience a sharp decline, and this mainly affects young adults and students studying in universities and colleges.
A study was conducted in 2017, where a team of researchers studied students at Harvard and made a comparison of their sleeping habits and academic success.
What’s important to mention is that all the students received the same hours of sleep every night, but their consistency was different.
Students who went to bed at the same time every day and woke up at the same time every morning saw higher GPAs and better circadian rhythms, whereas the opposite was observed in students who had irregular sleep patterns.
Andrew Phillips, in the same study, goes on to say that going to sleep and waking up at the exact same time every day is as important as the number of hours one sleeps.
The students who slept inconsistently were having difficulty in performing well. If they had a class at 9 AM, their body would react as if it’s 6 AM, thanks to the internal clocks built-in our systems.
But the question arises: why? It’s because our circadian rhythms work on a day-night cycle, and when our inconsistent sleeping patterns disturb that cycle, we experience difficulties.
Our body is designed to release different types of chemicals in our brains throughout the day, but when we sleep late or too early, the whole cycle gets disturbed.
How Can I Sleep Better and Be More Consistent?
Since we’ve provided sufficient evidence to conclude that sleep is essential and not just sleep, proper and consistent sleep is vital to promote a healthy lifestyle. Let’s talk about how an individual can optimize his sleep.
For that, we’ll cover a broad range of pointers that will help improve the quality of your sleep.
Here’s how you can improve your sleeping habits:
Switch Off Your Phone
Sleep.org reports that most Americans admit that they use their phones before sleeping. This habit destroys the quality of sleep because our phones emit sharp, blue lights that make our brain think that it’s daytime.
Thus, it makes us more alert and active, preventing us from enjoying a good night’s sleep.
Phones can disrupt your circadian rhythm, too, releasing melatonin when it doesn’t need to be released at all.
They recommend people to create a technology-free room and not to sleep before successfully avoiding the use of gadgets for around 30 minutes. This will help in providing a meaningful sleep.
Exercise During The Day
We all know how important exercise is to remain healthy, but what’s important is that exercise makes you tired.
Jogging, pulling weights, or exercising your muscles in any way throughout the day will physically exhaust your body, making you crave your bed more than ever.
Create The Ideal Environment
Not many people realize that a messy, congested bed will rarely bring proper sleep.
It’s important to make your bedroom, especially your mattress, look organized and presentable.
You may want to get rid of gadgets or extra items that hog up space, and this includes work laptops and even TV shows or movies that seem relaxing but end up alerting your brain to stay active and awake.
Moreover, you can install a dim light that makes you tired and makes your sleeping experience better.
It is advisable to keep the temperature cool since warm temperatures make it harder to sleep.
Our eating and drinking habits have a direct influence on our sleeping experience.
Usually, alcoholic drinks, beverages, and caffeine are advised against since they can make your mind alert and active—postponing your sleep for a few hours or so.
Furthermore, avoid overeating before going to bed. A full stomach won’t allow your body to rest comfortably.
Fix Your Circadian Rhythm
Try sitting or walking in the sunlight to restore your circadian rhythm.
Just like your brain unlearned to sleep at night, sunshine will retain your body and mind to follow the circadian rhythm and help you in sleeping peacefully at night.
Arrange Some Time for Regular Activities
Some people prefer to follow their routine activities every night before tucking themselves to bed, and it alerts their bodies that it’s time to sleep.
You may write a few sentences in your diary, have a warm glass of milk, or take a warm shower to ease yourself to sleep.
Following a routine daily will enable you to fall asleep without breaking a sweat each day
Wake Up Properly
Instead of opening your eyes to a smartphone, it’s better to stretch your body.
Drink a glass of water or sit quietly and think about your upcoming day. You can try yoga, meditation, or read a book to kick-start the day.
Figure Out The Best Sleeping Pattern For You
You may have heard how people purchase specific designer suits for themselves.
Well, this applies to your sleep, as well. Our genetics, according to Healthline.com, decide how many hours of sleep our body requires per night.
Moreover, some people find it better to sleep at night while others prefer to stay in tune with owls and sleep during the day.
Since your genetic makeup can’t be changed, you can observe and adapt yourself, which leaves you with the most energy throughout the day.
Once you have adapted yourself to your specific sleeping patterns, devise a routine and follow it strictly.
This will enable you to start feeling drowsy at your usual sleep time and wake up exactly when you want to.
Frequently Asked Questions
In order to steer clear the issues and misconceptions that people regularly face, we’ve created an FAQ session.
Although 5 hours are not recommended per night, you can boost and energize yourself with the help of carbonated drinks or coffee as they help in keeping you awake. Plus, exercise can aid in keeping your body active & alert.
It certainly isn't. The CDC implores people to sleep at least 7 hours, and that's the minimum. However, your genetics and body type does come into play.
Naps are good if kept under control. Power naps of 30 minutes are ideal since they energize you, and you still haven't entered the REM stage yet. Going above 30 minutes may enable the REM stage, and getting up abruptly can make your body feel exhausted.
Sleep deprivation can hammer your life significantly. It may be challenging to remain attentive, you may have fluctuating moods, and you may experience difficulty in solving problems and retaining memory. There are numerous other side effects of sleep deprivation, but you're better off not exploring them by depriving yourself of sleep.
Constant yawning, foggy mind, fatigue, inability to process things, difficulty in remembering, finding it hard to make decisions, among other signs.
Yes, you can. Extended periods of sleep deprivation will increase your risk of developing fatal diseases and may even lead to death. The mortality rate increases as sleep goes down.
Often termed as an internal clock, circadian rhythm follows a 24-hour cycle inside you. When your circadian rhythm runs out of order, then your body starts behaving abnormally.
We can successfully draw at least one conclusion from all that’s been said above; sleep is not a want but a need.
In times like these, where society, the education system, workplace, and relationships demand more from us, sleep should have higher importance. Still, sadly, it is neglected and often perceived as a waste of time.
With the drawbacks of ignoring sleep and the pros of having consistent and proper rest, we can now understand why people who sleep more tend to live longer.