We have all experienced a poor night’s sleep. A single night of sleep deprivation can impair us tremendously during the day, causing us to feel drowsy, irritable or anxious. Most believe that a lack of sleep can be made up with naps during the day or during the next night. Oftentimes, this is not the case and we continue to experience nights of inadequate sleep, finding ourselves with regular sleep deficits.
When sleep loss accumulates, far more severe consequences can manifest.
Chronic sleep loss is associated with many long-term health consequences far more severe than sleepiness.
Lack of sleep on a regular basis can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, mood disorders, memory loss, depression and hypertension.
Lack of sleep, not only affects your health, but has been known to cause public safety issues as drowsiness causes loss of focus and coordination, as well as, slow reaction times, very similar to the feeling of being drunk.
A study conducted in 2000 shows that subjects that were well-rested prior to suffering from sleep deprivation that night had a sleep deficit contributing to a loss in performance equivalent to a blood-alcohol content of .05 percent after being awake for 17 to 19 hours. Sleep studies have also shown that sleep loss and poor quality sleep has an impact on job performance and can lead to accidents and injuries on the job. Furthermore, a study published in 2003 showed that performance begins to lapse after an average of 15.84 hours of wakefulness.
Poor sleep habits are among the most common causes of sleep problems in our society. Unknowingly, we contribute to our own inadequate sleep issues with overstimulation, chemicals, and interrupted sleep cycles. Below are common poor sleep habits that many of us commit, unaware how it is affecting our sleep.
Drinking alcohol or caffeine before bedtime - Alcoholic or caffeine ridden beverages can drastically decrease the quality of your sleep. Alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, but it can ultimately cause you to wake up every few hours, most of which are not remembered. We all know that caffeine gives us a jolt of energy, allowing us to stay awake. Drinking caffeine before bed can cause us to stay awake for hours longer than initially planned or keep us in lighter stages of sleep.
Instead of a glass of wine before bed, reach for a warm cup of tea. Studies have shown that lemon balm or decaffeinated green tea provide soothing qualities and ease anxieties, promoting a better nights sleep. If you are not a tea fan, warm milk is an age old remedy that still proves to be effective today.
Exercise close to bed time - Regular exercise can improve quality of sleep, but studies have shown that exercising too close to bedtime increases core body temperature, which may delay sleep onset or decrease quality of sleep later in the night.
To take advantage of exercises ability to improve sleep, exercise three to four hours before bed. Avoid exercise any closer to bedtime.
Irregular wake up and bedtimes - The worst sleep habit a person can commit is irregular sleep times. By falling asleep and waking up at different times, your body’s Circadian rhythm is not able to properly set, causing you to feel drowsy the next day and make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
Wake up and fall asleep at the same time each day, even if you did not sleep well the night before. This will ensure your body stays in sync with its natural sleep wake cycle.
Sleeping in an environment not conducive for sleep - A sleep environment that is not dark, comfortable, quiet or cool can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Make sure your sleeping environment is dark, comfortable, quiet and cool. Make sure your mattress and pillow meet your needs for both comfort and support. If light from the outside is waking you up in the middle of the night, use heavy curtains to keep the light out of your room. A simple eye mask can eliminate light from inside the house as well as outside the house. Some also find it soothing to run a fan to block out distracting noises. Inexpensive “white noise” machines can be purchased which aid in blocking out noise.