“Sleep is for the weak” is just not true and if you think you can “sleep when you’re dead”, you’re probably hastening the day.

Chances are that you try to get the most out of every day.

Chances are you stay up a bit too late, just to have time to yourself or (gasp) to get more work done. Chances are that you wake up early too. Education is an inexhaustible treasure trove of ‘more to do’ and the early bird catches the worm and all that…

Heck, you might even have a toddler who functions like a brilliantly reliable 4:50 alarm, except on those days where you’ve forgotten to set an actual alarm. Well, you know what they say about burning the candle at both ends…

No? I’m not actually sure either, but it’s one of those metaphors that you just kind of ‘get’. You can’t cut back on sleep too much. You’ll pay for it if you do.

So, sleep well and lots.

Everything is better when you’re properly rested. You’ll power through your day, feel genuinely positive about the world and be tweaking your biochemistry in loads of really positive ways.

Research is emerging that shortchanging your sleep may be as damaging a health risk as being obese! In fact, if you’re giving short shrift to your sleep, you’re more likely to become obese. This may be partly because on poor sleep, most people have blood sugar responses that make them look pre-diabetic! That’s not even mentioning the drop in willpower and cravings for sugary, fatty food.

So if you do miss sleep, do your best to stay clear of the carbs until you can clear your sleep debt. Have bacon and eggs for breakfast, or something similarly satiating and fat focused (fat doesn’t raise your insulin levels, and so, paradoxically, helps keep you lean.).

Sleep and impairment:   More than 24 hours of being awake may leave you more impaired than the legal driving limit! Chronically short changing your sleep (by about 2 hours) can leave you in a similar state of impairment to just pulling an all-nighter. What does it look like to be impaired by sleep deprivation? Reaction times are slower, decision making is much poorer and because of the heightened emotionality that accompanies sleep deprivation, you’re more likely to be impulsive.

Sound like any other circumstance you’re familiar with?

 

Sleep, Creativity and Learning:  Sleep is well-recognised for its memory consolidation role. No sleep equals no (or very limited) learning. This seems to be true regardless of your age or activity level. But it’s not just long-term memory that’s affected, the decreased ability to concentrate comes from an impairment in working memory too.

To step back and look at it, you’re effectively less intelligent on less than enough sleep.

 

Sleep and Mental Health:  Sleep is becoming more and more connected to invisible ailments like depression, schizophrenia and various forms of dementia. Short tempers, mood swings, and compromised decision making accompany lack of sleep too.

It’s also well known to any parent that missing sleep will fray your nerves, put a big strain on your relationships and make you feel like you’re losing your mind. And anyone who’s seen a toddler meltdown due to being overtired and the ensuing pacification that a good nap can bring will get an idea of how mentally and emotionally restorative good sleep is.

Even a short nap can make a massive difference on one’s impression of the day and their relationship to the world etc.

 

Third Pillar of Good Health:  When sleep deprived, immune function is basically shot to pieces. Your hormones and neurotransmitters get all out of whack and you end up putting yourself at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and virtually every other disease of inflammation.

There’s now even emerging evidence that sleep deprivation may play a role in the onset of a variety of autoimmune conditions as well as things like Parkinson’s! One study showed that dropping sleep from 7 to 5 hours a night doubled participants’ risk of death, especially by cardiovascular disease! That’s some pretty mind-boggling risk.

There’s also the evidence that sleep deprivation tends to tank peoples’ testosterone and human growth hormone levels and prematurely ages the skin… Sounds a lot like smoking… which, according to New Scientist, will lose you 1.2 minutes of sleep per night per cigarette. Not a lot individually, but they sure could add up…

So, more and more we’re understanding that sleep isn’t just useless downtime and really can’t be scrimped on if you want to be the best version of yourself.   If you’d like to read more about this, Doctor Kirk Parsley is one of the most knowledgeable about sleep folks on the internet and he’s got a load of great blog posts about sleep on his site. If you’ve got a bit of time, it’s definitely worth a read.

The folks over at Healthline.com also have a great mouse-over graphic giving the skinny on a list of problems with lack of sleep if you prefer your info in the graphic format.

Long story short, “sleep is for the weak” is just not true and if you think you can “sleep when you’re dead”, you’re probably hastening the day.

As a parting thought until next week when we’ll look at fixing sleep, the Dalai Lama, always one to advocate good mental health, has said: “Sleep is the best meditation.” In my view, he’s always worth listening to, he says some pretty good stuff.

How is sleep deprivation limiting you?  Drop a comment below, you might help another reader…