“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” was the infamous slogan of my undergraduate career. Long, late nights awake studying- or partying- and early morning class was my routine. Add in shifts waitressing until 3 o’clock in the morning plus a Psychology internship, and I barely logged an average of 4 hours of sleep per night. This trend carried through graduate school and into adulthood. I wore my tired eyes like little badges of honor received for hustling the “hardest.”
I carried on this way for years until one day it hit me. I had to undergo a procedure that required general anesthesia, and I was nearly giddy over the potential rest. How disturbing is that? Disgusted with my thoughts, I vowed to take a long hard look at my lifestyle and make the necessary changes before my health made the decision for me.
In the United States, we never stop. “FOMO” is a coined term- the fear of missing out- and it is an epidemic. We live in the era of “doing it all,” but at what cost? When did we begin to look down upon those with “only” one job? Or “only” one child?
The effects of chronic sleep deprivation on our bodies are significant: increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression topping the charts, but more than that are the everyday mental struggles from the lack of sleep.
Is it time for you to pump the brakes? Below are six symptoms that can be treated with some extra Zs. Move into the realm of mental clarity and emotional balance with a good night’s rest.
If your brain isn’t given the opportunity to recharge with sleep, it will want an extra boost from food. The excess calories from an uncontrollable appetite often lead to weight gain. The foods most commonly picked when we are exhausted often lack nutrients. Our brains signal us to reach for a sugary quick fix to provide the energy surge it craves. Research shows that weight gain increases the odds of low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, as well as poor self-image.
If you feel like your decision-making abilities have tanked, or that you are pulling the trigger without a second thought, it is time to check yourself. Symptoms of subpar decision-making can range from the inability to make a decision at all to lashing out at your spouse, kids or coworkers, to not being able to say no to that third glass of wine.
Sleep is necessary to consolidate a memory for recollection in the future. Lack of sleep affects both types of memories- procedural and episodic. Keep your mind primed to consolidate memories with proper sleep.
Brain fog sets in when you don’t get the rest you need. The haze that sleep deprivation causes effects concentration ultimately making you less productive and less likely to learn at your full capacity. You may think you have chalked up more hours in the day from sleeping less but at great expense. Quality is better than quantity. Not only is learning compromised as well as focus but so are motor skills. Lacking motor skills leave you more likely to biff it in front of your boss. No bueno.
Emotional balance via the amygdala in your brain is disrupted by lack of sleep. Heightened activation of the amygdala can lead to increased anxiety as well as an inability to filter what is important and what is not. When you sleep less, and your brain cannot categorize situations, everything has an impact of catastrophic proportions.
Shoot for 8 hours of sleep per night and turn off those digital devices an hour before bedtime. If the health effects don’t entice you to make a change, consider how much more productive you will be with a good night’s rest.