Sleep deprivation – insufficient quality sleep – puts a huge strain on the mind and body and exacerbates stress.
“We know that a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1 percent.”
~ Charles Czeisler – Harvard professor of sleep medicine.
Our need for sleep
Research tells us that sleep isn't a passive state; it’s a highly active brain process, one that’s required for healthy brain function.
When we sleep our brain doesn't 'switch off' so much as 'switch on' in a different way. In a typical night, we move through several sleep cycles lasting 90 – 120 minutes, containing periods of light sleep, deep restorative sleep, with rapid eye movement (REM) dream sleep interspersed throughout. For a physically and mentally healthy adult, REM accounts for around 20% of sleep. Each phase plays a slightly different role in helping us process our experience of the world.
A University of Freiburg study published in August 2016, showed for the first time that sleep allows the brain to wind down its activity and reset the steady build-up of connectivity in the brain which takes place during waking hours. This natural reset process appears to be crucial for memory consolidation and learning, which in turn enables us to adapt to the world around us.
The Freiburg researchers also found that the loss of a single night’s sleep was enough to block the reset process. Deprived of rest, the brain’s neurons become over-connected and so muddled with electrical activity that new memories cannot be properly laid down.
Other studies have shown that a primary function of sleep is the regulation of the autonomic nervous activity of which the stress response is part. A lack of sleep makes the amygdala (our alarm centre) more sensitive and that means we’re more likely to trigger the stress response in the face of something challenging, new or uncertain. Plus, tired brains find it harder to calm down once emotionally aroused.
In short, we cannot perform at our best mentally or physically when we’re sleep deprived. Those of you, who wear a fitness tracker, can check this out for yourselves. Compare your hours of sleep each night with your mood the following day. You’ll most likely find that low sleep hours equate to your feeling grumpy, foggy and irritable and adversely impact on your ability to concentrate.
How much sleep do we need?
It differs from person to person. But the vast majority of us need between seven and nine hours of quality sleep, to function at our best. While it’s true that there are a tiny proportion of people who need less sleep, researchers have found that out of every 100 people who believe they only need five or six hours sleep a night, only about 5 really do.
A few suggestions to help you get the sleep you need
The simple fact is that sleep deprivation is a health and productivity killer. To reduce your stress level and make your brain run more effectively, you need to take steps to ensure you get seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night.
Here are three suggestions that will help you achieve that target:
1. Prioritise sleep: Change your mind-set from “Sleep’s a nice to have,” to “Sleep is a must have.” Make it a priority to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
2. Practice good sleep hygiene: In particular, expose yourself to as little light as possible before bedtime. Put away your mobile phone and tablet. Switch off the TV and PC. Light, particularly light that’s rich in blue wavelengths, tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime and so suppresses the release of melatonin, the hormone that signals to our brain that it’s time to sleep.
3. Develop a bedtime routine: When you create a bedtime routine, or habit, you condition your brain to associate the routine with “it’s time to sleep.”
To find out more about how I can help you overcome insomnia and sleep problems simply schedule a complimentary 30 minute consultation with me. It's that easy.
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Tony Yuile is hired by people seeking help to perform at their best in one or more areas of their lives. He is a Personal Performance Coach & hypnosis professional based in Wellington NZ, where he specialises in helping people perform under pressure, reduce anxiety and manage stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.
This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.