Sleep Talk | Gotta Sleep Blog

Sleep Deprivation Effects

Author: Jesse Tutt

Are you getting enough sleep? Do you find you choose work over sleep? Think you’re being productive? If you're running yourself ragged and staying up too late to get work done, you could be diminishing your mental and physical health, and your productivity.

Studies have shown that a lack of sleep, especially trading work for sleep, can destroy productivity and increase stress. Sleep deprivation impacts your ability to stay focused and operate at a higher-level brain function. It can also affect mood, cause physical illnesses and mental health issues.

There are negative effects of sleep deprivation on your job

You know that sleep is good for your brain, and you certainly feel better after a good night’s rest. Research has shown that when you enter a deep sleep, your brain starts clearing itself of toxic proteins that are created by neural activity when you’re awake. If you don’t sleep - your brain can’t remove them. If those toxic proteins stay put in your brain cells, it can cause big problems. You’ll literally lose brain function. You’ll be slow to process information, lack creativity and focus, experience increased stress and negative emotions. 

It's like your brain is a room, if you don't take the time to clean up once in a while, it can get really hard to get work done when you need to.

How getting enough sleep helps your health

In addition to mental health problems, not getting enough sleep is linked to a score of physical health issues including type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart attacks and strokes. Sleep deprivation weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to other illnesses and viruses. It can make you look (and feel) older by breaking down cortisol in your skin. Cortisol is the protein that gives your skin elasticity and smoothness. Not enough sleep can also reduce testosterone levels and result in unhealthy weight gain as your body tries to cope with the stress.

Getting a healthy dose of sleep helps your body metabolize carbohydrates. When you sleep more, you eat less, and your body is better equipped to burn calories as it should. When you’re sleep deprived, you feel hungrier because it increases an appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin and decreases your hormone leptin which is what helps you feel satisfied after eating. Statistically, people who sleep less than 6 hours a night are more likely to be overweight compared to those who get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

How much sleep should you be getting?

The amount of sleep you need depends on your age and health, but the average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Read more about how much sleep you need.

In a recent study conducted by Inc.com, 500 CEOs reported that they were getting less than 6 hours of sleep at night. Are you getting enough to properly do your job?

How can you get more sleep?

The first step is to stop working and go to bed when it’s time to go to bed! Proper sleep will help you manage emotions, stay physically healthy, remain calm under pressure and relieve work and life-related stress. Here are some ways you can improve your sleep hygiene:

Don’t take sleeping pills.

Avoid anything that sedates you so you can fall asleep. This could include sleeping pills, alcohol, cold medication and many other substances. Sedation can interfere with your brain’s natural sleep process. If the brain is unable to remove harmful toxins and recover while you’re sleeping, you won’t reap the benefits of a good night’s rest. If you find you can’t sleep without sleeping pills you may have a serious medical condition, and should speak to your doctor about what's right for you.

Eliminate or reduce caffeine intake.

Cutting out or cutting back on caffeine can help you sleep more and improve the quality of sleep too. Caffeine disrupts sleep quality by reducing Rapid Eye Movement (REM). Your body needs REM to recuperate from the day. Without it, you’ll wake up feeling tired and suffer the consequences of sleep deprivation.  

Caffeine causes you to produce adrenaline and it blocks important chemicals that induce sleep. It can take up to 24 hours for your body to clear caffeine out of its system. Your 8:00 AM coffee will still be in your system in the evening, so cutting back can really help you sleep better. If you can’t cut the morning java, at least cut yourself off at lunchtime so it's not so hard to sleep when you have to.

Read more about the affects of caffeine here.

Stay away from screens at bedtime.

Blue light from screens, like your tablet, phone, computer or TV screen, can negatively impact sleep. We evolved to wake up when the bright blue sky is out, so when we see it, our brains stop production of your sleep-inducing hormones. This is great if it’s time to get up, but bad for your sleep habits if you’re feeling more alert at bedtime.

Keep blue light exposure to a minimum in the evening. That means no smart phone, tablet or computer in front of your face before bedtime. If you watch television in the evenings, make sure you’re sitting a healthy distance away from it. If you must be in front of a screen, limit your exposure to blue light by using a filter, program, or protective eye wear. These things exist specifically for this purpose.

Be consistent with your wake-up time.

Your body works best when it’s on a routine. This is especially important to your sleep cycle routine. Waking up at the same time every day can help boost your mood and sleep quality. It regulates your circadian rhythm, helps your brain move through your daily sleep cycle and helps you feel more alert and rested when it’s time to get out of bed.

If you wake up at different times each day, your brain will be confused as to when to start the sleep process and when exactly, to prepare you for waking up again. Historically, people would use the sun to indicate it’s time to wake up. Now we rely on alarms. Resist the temptation to sleep in when your alarm goes off. Get up, start your day and start feeling better!

This means no excessive sleeping in on weekends.

It might feel like you’re ‘catching up on sleep’ by staying in bed until noon on a Saturday, but it can have counteractive affects. As mentioned before, inconsistent wake up times can mess up your circadian rhythm, even on the weekend. You’ll feel tired and groggy all week because your brain won’t know to prepare your body to wake up. It doesn’t matter as much on the weekend, but your body and mind will appreciate the consistency during the work week.

Determine how much sleep is the right amount for you.

Everyone's Gotta Sleep! The amount you need isn’t something you can control. Most people sleep less than they should and they’re under performing as a result. Science shows that when we get enough sleep, our health, mental capacity and happiness improves. Don’t decide that 6 hours of sleep is enough for you - instead, sleep according to health professional guidelines. You need enough sleep to stay sharp, creative and happy.

Stop working and go to bed.

Working in the evening will put you in a very ‘awake’ state of mind. Instead, use the evening to wind down and relax. The longer you spend winding down, the easier you’ll find it to fall asleep and stay asleep. Most of us are monitoring our work emails on our phones right up to bedtime. Many take their work home to squeeze in a few more hours before bed. As mentioned already, blue light from your phone or computer at night will have a negative affect on your sleep amount and quality. Any type of work, especially work on a screen, should be avoided before bed if you want a good night’s sleep, and a good work day tomorrow.

Find solutions for things that keep you up.

When we have kids, there’s not much we can do to keep them from interrupting sleep. There are some interruptions that we can control, or at least help. For example, if your loud neighbours or the traffic outside keeps you up, wearing ear plugs to bed could block it out. Getting black out shades to keep the light out of your bedroom helps your brain remember it's nighttime, and turning your ringer off when you go to bed stops it from distracting or waking you. Stay hydrated, but don’t drink a huge glass of water before bed or you'll be up to use the washroom during the night. If your partner tosses and turns, investing in a high-quality mattress that reduces motion transfer becomes a worthy investment.

Get a better mattress.

If you find yourself constantly tossing and turning, it could be your mattress. You need a comfortable mattress that assists with proper neck and spine alignment. You also need one that doesn’t put painful pressure on pressure points like your hips and shoulders. The right mattress can help you regulate heat, reduce motion transfer, and let you sink into it comfortably in more than one spot. Learn more about our mattresses here.

If you’re still lacking sleep at night, try taking a nap.

Generally, taking naps can diminish the quality of your sleep at night, but it's better than not sleeping enough. Our bodies produce some melatonin between 1:00 - 3:00 PM, which is why we feel sleepy at the office after lunch, which makes it prime time for a 15 minute nap. It could help you feel better later in the day and help you avoid that afternoon caffeine hit.

In conclusion

Just because you know someone who gets very little sleep and still does well at work, does not mean that person is healthy or performing as well as they could be. If you’re not getting the sleep your body and brain need, you are underperforming, end of story. Remove that unnecessary barrier to your success and commit to getting a better night’s sleep at night. You’ll feel better, physically, mentally and emotionally. 

Read more tips for a better night’s sleep.