The importance of a restful night’s sleep

What are the effects of sleep deprivation on my mind and body?

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and wellbeing throughout your life. Getting enough high quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental and physical health, quality of life and safety. The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re not. When you’re sleeping, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. Depressive illnesses and anxiety disorders can lead to sleep disturbances, as can pain from conditions such as arthritis, cancer and acid reflux, to name a few.

The effects of sleep deprivation

Lack of sleep can lead to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Hormonal changes
  • Weight gain
  • Other physical signs of fatigue, such as dull skin and dark circles under the eyes
  • Irritability, low moods, frustration and stress
  • An inability to think objectively
  • Diminished concentration, decision-making skills and memory
  • Reduced planning and organisational ability
  • Slower reaction times and uncoordinated motor skills
  • Impulsive or poorly considered behaviour
  • Accidents, errors and injuries
  • Micro sleeps at inconvenient or dangerous times
  • A compromised immune system
  • Increased risk of premature death.

The good news is that risk assessment, education and treatment can address the cognitive and physical deficits caused by sleep deprivation. If you think you might be experiencing any of these symptoms, it is essential to visit a sleep specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What are some strategies for getting a restful night’s sleep?

You may spend as long as 24 years asleep over an average lifetime, so healthy sleep habits can make a big difference to your overall quality of life. Sound slumber can result in increased energy and productivity, improved heart and immune system health, a better mood and even a longer life. There are a number of steps you can take to improve your quality of sleep.

Diet

  • Cut down on alcohol intake
  • Don’t consume caffeine after lunch
  • Avoid eating big meals and drinking lots of fluids at night.

Routine

  • Regulate your sleep schedule
  • Go to bed when you start to feel sleepy instead of staying up to watch the end of a show or finish another chapter of that book
  • Prepare yourself for sleep. E.g. breathing exercises, yoga, stretching, reading or listening to calming music
  • Power nap. If you’re feeling tired during the day, take a short nap – about 20 to 30 minutes should do it. The extra rest will give you the energy to keep going until your regular bedtime.
  • Get up when your alarm goes off. Avoid hitting the snooze button!

Environment

  • Eliminate electronic devices from the room you sleep in.
  • Make your bedroom dark. The darker it is, the better you will sleep.
  • Keep noise to a minimum. If you can’t eliminate noise from traffic, neighbours or barking dogs, try masking it with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds or a ‘white noise’ machine.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable. You should have enough room to stretch and turn comfortably.
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