Many effects of a lack of sleep, such as feeling grumpy and not working at your best, are well known. But sleep deprivation can also have profound consequences on your physical health.
Sleep isn’t shut down. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing a wide variety of biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition, preparing you for the day ahead. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create and communicate at a level even close to your true potential.
One in three of us suffer from poor sleep. Most of us need around eight hours of quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less. Famously, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reportedly ran the country with just four hours’ sleep a night. What matters is that you find out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it. As a general rule, if you are experiencing the following, then you are not getting enough sleep:
- Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.
- Feel sluggish in the afternoon.
- Get sleepy in meetings, lectures or warm rooms.
- Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving.
- Need to nap to get through the day.
- Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening.
- Feel the need to sleep in at the weekend.
- Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed.
After several sleepless nights, your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You’ll start to feel down and may fall asleep during the day. If it continues, lack of sleep can affect your overall health, making you less capable of fighting off bugs and prone to serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
On the positive side, you can easily improve the quality of your sleep by adopting a relaxing bedtime routine: read by a soft light; take a warm bath; listen to soft music; do some easy stretches; listen to books on tape; make simple preparations for the next day. Ensuring you have a relaxing bedroom environment and a comfortable bed, as well as avoiding late and large meals, alcohol, caffeine and smoking, can all help with improving sleep quality and, in turn, our productivity and energy levels.
If you’d like advice on sleep problems, you can make an appointment by calling TFJ Private GP Services on 01926 436303 or by visiting www.tfjprivategp.co.uk.
Dr Nick Tait