You’re tired during the day, irritable, anxious, have difficulty concentrating and are about as alert as a fridge freezer. If you don’t deal with your sleep problem, your health will spiral downwards and your once cheery personality will be replaced by a glum, short-tempered one. Here’s what to expect when you suffer with tiredness from lack of sleep. It could be worse than you think …
• Poor memory. During a good night’s sleep, in the REM stage, the brain busily replenishes the neurotransmitters that organise neural networks vital for remembering, learning, performance and problem solving. If you deprive the brain of sleep, you get less REM sleep. The result? The crossword takes twice as long to finish, you’ll forget the names of close friends and you’ll stare at the tax form for days before even attempting to fill it out.
• More car accidents. According to one study drowsiness or sleep disorders was a factor in about half of all traffic accidents and 36% of fatal accidents. Another study compared the reaction times between people who were sleep deprived and those who’d been drinking alcohol. The result? Pretty poor mental functioning all round. This suggests that driving when tired is as dangerous as driving drunk
• Constant colds. With a tissue pressed to your face at all times, no one’s really seen you properly for weeks – which is probably a good thing considering your dry, flaky red nose, cracked lips and streaming eyes. Recent research demonstrated that the nightly loss of four hours of sleep over ten days in healthy young adults significantly reduced their immune function. The number of white blood cells (responsible for the production of antibodies that fight disease) within the body decreases, as does the activity of the remaining white blood cells.
• Old before your time. Research suggests that missing sleep can actually speed up ageing. Sleeping for only four hours a night for less than a week, reduces the body’s ability to process and store carbohydrates and regulate hormone levels – changes which are similar to those of advanced ageing. Another study found that sleeping under five hours per night lowered the life span (although sleeping more than nine hours also did the same).
• Makes you fat. Lack of sleep makes you hungry and more prone to putting on weight – one of the main causes of snoring and sleep apnoea. The key to this is the hormone leptin, which signals when the body needs or does not need more food. Leptin levels rise during sleep and this tells your brain that you’ve eaten enough and don’t need any more calories. When you’re sleep deprived, leptin levels are low, which sends a signal to your brain that you need more calories. Your brain thinks that there’s a shortage of food and that you need to eat more when, in fact, you’ve eaten enough.
• High blood pressure. Blood pressure usually falls during the sleep cycle; however, interrupted sleep can adversely affect this normal decline, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular problems. One study of nurses showed that those who slept five hours or less had a 45% greater risk of developing heart disease than those sleeping eight hours. Those sleeping nine to eleven hours increased their risk by 38%.
• Diabetes risk. Research has also shown that insufficient sleep impairs the body’s ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.
Lack of sleep is an increasing problem in the workplace can cause injury, poor performance and depression. I discuss this, and simple ways to help you and your staff tackle it, in The Corporate Wellness Bible. Get in touch to find out more.
Extracted from The Corporate Wellness Bible by Kate Cook (www.infideas.com). To discuss how your business can benefit from The Corporate Wellness Bible, including how you can order bespoke versions for your company, please email email@example.com or call David Grant on 01865 514 888.