Sleep is something I’ve been thinking about a lot as of late. For the first 29 years of my life, I generally slept like a baby. The last year, however, this hasn’t always been the case. I’m tempted to say the shift work has finally caught up to me, but this may not be the only reason.
There’s been debates before as to what is considered an adequate amount of sleep per night (this is somewhat related to your age as well. Obviously a baby will need more sleep than a grown adult). From my own personal experiences and from what I’ve read, 8 hours per night seems to be ideal. Unfortunately, most people do not get 8 hours of sleep per night. In fact, this article states that nearly 1/3’s of Americans are sleep deprived. This is not good. I’m inclined to believe this number is actually much higher than was reported.
Anyhow, in this article I am going to first discuss the various ways in which sleep affects you, and then later, give you some tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
How Sleep affects you:
Mood- your mood is heavily dependent on how well you are or are not sleeping. I know when my sleep is suffering, like most people, I tend to be in a bad mood and am easily irritated. Not only can poor sleep put you in a bad mood, it’s also believed to cause anxiety and depression. When you sleep a solid 8 hours a night, however, you awaken chipper and ready for the day ahead. It’s amazing how great you feel when you regularly get proper rest at night.
Productivity– lack of productivity is another one of the negative effects from a poor night’s sleep. When I am poorly rested, whether I’m at work or at home, I tend to be much less productive. I’m more likely not to complete a specific task or to do so in a half -assed fashion. When I am well rested, however, quite the opposite is true and I tend to get tenfold the amount of work done.
Impairment- although I’m not proud to admit it, I drove while impaired several times in my late teens. It was definitely foolish of me and I’m lucky to not have killed myself or anyone else for that matter. I can still remember the feeling of being drunk behind the wheel. To be honest, though, it’s not much different than driving while really tired. You reaction time is reduced and you’re more likely to make a driving error which could have potentially fatal results.
Performance at the Gym– a poor night’s sleep is a real killer at the gym. Not only are you more likely to skip a planned workout altogether, if you do make it, you’re less likely to go “full out” as you simply don’t have the energy to do so. Also, if you’re sleeping poorly, your muscles won’t be getting the “tlc” they need to fully repair themselves after an intense workout.
Immune system– When you are not resting properly, your body is not repairing its cells efficiently. This weakens your immune system and puts you at higher risk for catching flu’s, colds, and other bugs.
Performance in the bedroom– With poor sleep comes the possibility of the “big guy,” well, not being so big. Poor sleep can lead to erectile dysfunction. Not only that, you may be too tired for sex as well.
Effects on the skin- This article suggests that sleep deprivation is linked to aging skin. Although aging is a part of life and is not something that can be avoided, you can certainly slow down the process by getting a little more shut eye each night.
Weight management- proper sleep is believed to help keep one’s metabolism up. As a result, those who sleep more tend to have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight as opposed to those who do not. Also, when you are sleeping properly, you are more likely to make better nutrition choices. Although I try and eat a healthy, balanced diet, I am most likely to slip up when I’m running low on sleep. If I don’t have the proper foods cooked or on hand, it’s more likely I will buy something unhealthy instead. Also, if you are up until the wee hours of the morning, you’re more likely to snack on unhealthy, high calorie foods. Are you seriously making a spinach shake at 3 in the morning or you reaching for the cookie jar? Better yet, why do you have a cookie jar to begin with?
Tips for a better nights sleep:
Cut back on caffeine consumption- this may be harder for some than others. I personally love coffee. In fact, at one point, I would have upwards of 5 cups per day. However, as of late, I’ve limited myself to 3 cups at the most and none after 2 pm. Also, keep in mind that a lot of diet colas have caffeine in them as well so it’s best not to drink them into the evening either.
Trying going to bed at the same time each night.- this obviously isn’t possible for those who work shift work, but if you can, try to get into the habit of going to bed around the same time each night.
Put your $!@%ing phone away– it’s no secret that most people are obsessed with their phones nowadays. Although you don’t have to power down your phone at night, at the very least, shut the notification ringer off. If you were to receive a text/email at 2 am, it’s quite possible that not only could it wake you up, but depending on what it entailed, it may also get your mind racing and prevent you falling asleep again. What I do at night is turn off the notification ringer on my phone and place on the couch of my living room face down. If I happen to wake up in the middle of the night, I will not see my phone flashing if I received an email or text. I’ll see it in the morning and reply then.
Relax- yeah, I understand, work has been busy lately. You’re struggling to meet deadlines and feel you don’t have the time to sleep. Perhaps you recently started a new business and need 30 hours in the day instead of 24? Whatever it is, you can only do so much in the run of a day. Who doesn’t have a busy life? Try and relax a little more, though. The world won’t stop because you took 8 hours to rest up that night. In fact, you’ll be doing yourself a favor as you’ll be more productive the following day.
Consider buying some new “sleeping gear”- although you may not be able to afford a new mattress and/or box-spring( I got a good deal on both a couple years ago at a Black Friday sale and don’t regret it one bit), at the very least, consider shelling out a few extra bucks for a good pillow(s). I bought a couple nice pillows earlier this year and the comfort is second to none. You don’t have to splurge, but if you can afford it, consider updating your “sleeping gear.”
EXERCISE- I cannot stress enough just how important exercise is for your overall well being. One of the benefits of exercising is that your body will require more rest, and thus, you’ll sleep better at night. Hit the squat rack hard after work, and trust me, you’ll be tired later on that night.
Make your room as dark as possible- this has certainly helped me a lot over of the years as I sometimes have to sleep during the day. It’s a good idea to buy some dark curtains or at the very least consider buying a sleeping mask. A sleeping mask may feel unnatural at first and may take some “trial and error” to find one that’s comfortable but it’s worth considering. Also, even if you don’t have to sleep during the day, depending on the time of year and/or where you live, it may be bright before you alarm goes off and cause you to awake earlier.
Sleeping arrangements- although falling asleep in each other’s arms is often portrayed as the “fairy tale type romance” on television and in the movies, the reality of this is that’s not very comfortable and you’ll wake up the following morning with a sore arm/shoulder. This may initially upset your wife/girlfriend if you bring it up but your sleep is at night is important as well.
Sleeping aid- as much as I don’t like to take them, sleeping pills are something I’ve had to resort to more recently. I’ve had to take them quite often since February to combat bouts of insomnia. Although they will put you to sleep, they’re highly addictive and may make you feel very drowsy the following day. I’m slowly trying to ween off them but it hasn’t been so easy. Talk to your doctor about them if insomnia is catching up to you. Also, consider a natural sleeping aid like Melatonin. I personally don’t find Melatonin to be very effective but have heard of guys who have had success with it before.
Just do it- for some, this initially may be tough to do but you need to just do it and go to bed earlier. This was never much of a problem for me as I’ve always been more a “morning person.” Ideally, I like to go to bed around 11 pm and get up at 7 am. By 8 am, I am showered, have had breakfast, a coffee, and am then doing something productive.
I hope this article emphasized the importance of sleep and that you guys will place an emphasis on proper rest in order to obtain optimal physical and mental health.
Rest up, bro!