When you are not getting adequate sleep, you suffer more than just the physical effects of being tired. You can become irritable, impatient, anxious, and depressed. Lack of sleep undermines creativity and efficiency. Fatigue can hinder your cognitive skills of memorization, concentration, and motivation. Getting an adequate level of sleep means you are not only sleeping the number of hours your body needs, but also your sleep is high quality sleep.
Negative Effects of Not Getting Enough Sleep
- Lower stress threshold. Normal, everyday tasks can feel overwhelming.
- Impaired memory. Your brain’s ability to form memories declines.
- Trouble concentrating. You lose your ability to focus on a task, but also often overestimate your performace.
- Decreased optimism and sociability. Sleep-deprived individuals consistently score higher on Hopelessness Scales and report the desire to isolate from others.
- Impaired creativity and innovation. New research suggests that sleep deprivation may have a particular effect on these two areas of cognition.
- Increased resting blood pressure. Even a half night of sleep loss can cause increases in blood pressure.
- Increased food consumption and appetite. Participants in scientific research showed an increase in their desire to consume food.
- Increased risk of heart attack. Sleep study participants had increased levels of inflammation associated with cardiac disease.
- Weakened immune system. Sleep depravation causes white blood cell counts to rise.
- Decreased ability to metabolize sugar.
Ten Behaviors to help you get more, higher quality sleep:
- Establish a nightly sleep routine that includes a set bedtime. One of the easiest behavior changes you can make to improve sleep is going to bed and waking up the same time every day. (Including weekends.)
- Create a bedtime ritual that will send signals to your body and your brain that you are getting ready for sleep. This ritual may include changing into pajamas, washing your face, brushing your teeth, etc.
- Do not take naps. Even if you are tired from a previous night of little sleep, challenge yourself to stay awake until bedtime.
- Do not drink caffeine or alcohol, or smoke cigarettes close to bedtime.
- Exercising in the morning or early afternoon can help sleep patterns. Vigorous exercise close to bedtime may delay your ability to fall asleep.
- Do not go to bed with a full stomach or an empty stomach.
- To associate your bed with sleep, do not engage in activities other than sex and sleep in your bed.
- Create a quiet, dark, and comfortable sleeping space.
- If you are unable to fall asleep for 30-45 minutes after going to bed, get up. Do something relaxing like drinking herbal tea or reading something calming. After 30 minutes, try to go to bed again.
- Reduce any stressful thoughts by making a TO DO list on paper. Once you write these thoughts down, your level of stress will almost always decrease significantly. Practice relaxation techniques before bed. Deep breathing, meditation, and some forms of yoga can be helpful.
Once you commit to changing behaviors to improve your quantity and quality of sleep, keep track of your moods. A simple piece of paper where you write your mood level (0 to 10, with 0 extreme sadness and 10 extreme happiness) can provide valuable information and motivation. If you still need more motivation, keep a copy of the list of the negative effects of not sleeping well with you.
We all have different limitations on our time and resources that may prevent us from fully committing to getting more and better sleep. If you can’t commit to making all the changes listed above, try a few. Even small improvements in sleep can have a significant impact on our levels of mental and physical functioning.
Holly Scott, MBA, MS, LPC sees clients at Uptown Dallas Counseling. Holly is trained in the specialty of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and holds the position of Diplomate in the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. Holly works with clients to help them overcome challenges in their daily lives that may be preventing them from achieving happiness. She helps clients with stress management, depression, parenting, marriage counseling, and other mental health concerns. If you are looking for a counselor or therapist, explore this website to see if Holly may be able to help you.
To make an appointment for therapy or counseling with Holly at her Uptown Dallas Counseling, you have the option of using the Online Patient Portal to register and schedule.