One of the most fundamental parts of keeping healthy is in getting enough sleep. We all know this at a rational level, but actually achieving it is often a whole other ball game…a ball game featuring a hard, red ball and a wooden bat, perhaps? As we head into the fourth test of the Ashes this week, there are undoubtedly many Australians getting up and going to work after very little sleep. This is one of the downsides of being a passionate sport supporter – whether it’s the 3:30am finish of the cricket or the tennis tournaments that go well into the early hours, sometimes we sacrifice sleep for the things we love.
There are always occasions where sleep deprivation is just a fact of life and is somewhat unavoidable – this could be during the first few months of having a newborn, starting a business, or travelling – but it’s important that we understand what exactly we’re sacrificing when we trade off our sleep for other things.
Sleep is a basic human requirement, just like eating, drinking, and breathing, and not getting enough sleep can lead to physical and mental health problems, injuries, or loss or productivity. A lack of sleep can impact your life in ways you may not have even considered; WebMD share a list of ten surprising effects of sleep deprivation here, including the impact it has on your skin and weight gain (https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/10-results-sleep-loss#1). Many of the effects of sleep deprivation on our brain function are fairly unsurprising, in fact you can probably hear a parent explaining most of them on a daily basis; ‘he’s getting a bit grumpy, he needs a sleep’, ‘she didn’t sleep very well last night, she can’t stay focussed’…As adults, however, we can be pretty quick to ignore these effects or even believe we can will our brains to overcome them. The truth is, sleep deficiency interferes with your social functioning, learning, focusing, reacting, and even judgement. In terms of your health, sleep deprivation can affect your immune system, increasing both the likelihood of you attracting a virus as well as your recovery time. Furthermore, getting enough sleep has been linked to a number of chronic health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression (http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health).
It’s crucial that we remember just how important sleep is for our bodies’ functioning next time we trade it in for a few more hours of television, sport, or socialising…sleep is precious, too.
The Sleep Health Foundation have put together some fantastic resources, click the links below to take a look.
The Better Health Channel list symptoms of sleep deprivation in adults and children here.
If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself or your family, consult your GP.
References and Resources