Have you ever chosen to go out on a late-night with friends, or perhaps to stay up late to finish the last set of tasks you set out to complete, knowing full well that sleep is the most immediate thing your body is begging you for?
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The Sleep epidemic
The idea of turning in early to some may seem ‘boring’ and intuitively ‘unproductive’. And to those 80-hour workweek workaholics, sleep may not seem like an option at all. A 2014 survey showed that 45% of adults were sleep-deprived. This may be surprising to some, but poor sleep is causing 23-45% of the population to lose more than two work weeks worth of productivity every year.
And what’s worrying is that most of us are oblivious of our heavily suppressed productivity, because we’ve been so acquainted with operating at suboptimal levels! Sleep deprivation does not just affect productivity but also many other bodily functions. Below are 5 things you should know about how sleep deprivation can affect our minds and bodies.
1. Sleep deprivation can affect your appearance
The first notable effect sleep deprivation will have on your body would be your appearance. After going for hours without sleep, you may notice dark circles around the eyes, more wrinkles and paler skin, and these effects may not be temporary. One study mentioned that a single night of insufficient sleep can make older adults cells’ age quicker!
2. ‘Drowsy Driving’ is similar to drunk driving
Studies have likened ‘drowsy driving’ (driving while fatigued or sleepy) to drunk driving. Sleep deprivation impairs your cognitive ability, causing you to be less alert. Driving after going for 20 hours with no sleep is similar to having a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08%, which is the legal drink driving limit in Singapore. Similar to drunk driving, it poses a serious threat on the road, causing over 100,000 road accidents yearly. If you haven't slept for a while then make sure you stay away from any activities that require a high level of focus.
3. A lack of sleep weakens your immune system
Not getting your fair share of sleep can also weaken and suppress your immune system. Studies show that sleep loss increases the risk of catching a cold, and can slow down your recovery time. After all, the old proverb goes, ‘sleep is the best medicine’, so you might want to get your daily dose of sleep to skip the common cold.
4. Sleep deprivation makes you more susceptible to many chronic diseases
Given the damaging effects of sleep on your immune system, it's no surprise that diseases like high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and obesity are linked to sleep deprivation.
5. Sleep deprivation can make you less optimistic and less sociable
Insufficient sleep may not only harm you physically, it can also affect your mood and mental health. People with chronic sleep deprivation have been found to be less sociable and optimistic. So if you've been feeling blue, and there seems to be no apparent reason, sleep might be the issue!
Sleep well to be well
Ultimately, having a good sleep schedule is the first step to taking care of your physical and mental well-being. This means practising good sleep hygiene - maintaining a regular sleep routine, skipping day-time naps, and avoiding large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed. Refraining from the use of blue light before bedtime and abstaining from any activity other than sleeping on your bed may help improve your sleep hygiene too. You might not feel the effects of a good sleep schedule overnight, but prepare to enjoy its benefits in the near future - your body will thank you for it!