What Happens When I Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Sleep loss and the health risks associated with it can actually be very serious. There are both short-term and long-term effects from lack of sleep. On the upside, there are ways to get the sleep you need without taking medications that may have serious side effects or be addictive.
The short-term effects from not getting enough sleep include:
- Decreased performance
- Lack of alertness
- Memory problems
- Cognitive impairment
- Relationship problems
- Lower quality of life
- On-the-job injuries
- Automobile accidents
When you have a sleep deficit, your performance on the job suffers. You are not as alert, it is difficult to be creative and you are more irritable and easier to agitate. It is harder to remember things that happened earlier in the day or week. The symptoms multiply and gain severity as your sleep deficit increases.
If the problems continue, they can damage your relationships with your partner, co-workers, children, boss and friends. You do not feel like doing the things you enjoy, so you have less quality of life. You may skip movies, dinner out, sports and other hobbies and activities that help keep your mind sharp and your body fit.
Sleep deprivation is a leading cause of automobile accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 100,000 accidents per year can be attributed to drowsy driving. 1,550 people die each year as a result, and it costs about $12.5 billion dollars in damages. Not getting enough sleep is a serious issue for Americans. Work-related injuries increase just as traffic accidents do.
The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are even more frightening:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Psychiatric problems/Mental impairment
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Growth retardation in newborns and children
Sleep loss and health risks of it can lead to death. A sleep deficit can occur from one night’s sleep loss, but serious health problems are the result of weeks, months or years of not getting enough sleep. It is important to dedicate 7 to 8 hours each night to sleeping.
If you are not able to fall asleep on your own, there are ways to get help without taking drugs. First, begin going to bed at a reasonable hour each night, and make it the same time every night. Sometimes sleep problems occur from going to bed at irregular hours, throwing off your body’s internal sleep clock.
Make your room nice and dark and keep it at a comfortable temperature. Avoid the light of computer screens, television sets, cell phones and other electronics for 30 minutes before bed. Lower the lights about this time so that your body senses sleep is near. Soft music, reading and a few gentle stretching exercises can help relax you before bed.
If you feel that some of your sleep problems are due to an inability to let go of things, write a to-do list before going to bed. As you jot down your tasks for the next day, visualize yourself letting go of these things until time to do them tomorrow. This will free your mind of worries about forgetting something or not having time for an important task. Once you have your plans made, let go of them until the next day.
To get enough sleep, try these tried-and-true methods:
- Use sleep hypnosis, meditation or relaxation methods to prepare your body for sleep.
- Aroma therapy also helps induce relaxation and sleep.
- Get enough exercise so that your body is tired at bedtime.
- See your doctor to make sure there are no underlying causes for your sleep problems.
Sleep loss and health risks of the problem are a serious issue for Americans. As our work days get longer, we need more time to play, relax and complete tasks in and around the home. All of these activities have taken a chunk out of our sleep time, and we are paying the price. Our health is worse, our relationships are worse and our quality of life is lower. Stop this problem for yourself and live a longer, healthier life because of it.