Somehow, our over-ambitious culture has embraced the idea that the more work we do, and the less rest we get, the better our work performance will be. When we become parents for the first time, we can feel even more pressured to succeed, and we may take on extra work to ensure all our children’s needs are met. Often, our sleep is hampered by colic, sleepless nights and toddler tantrums, yet we soldier on, impervious to the needs of our body and minds.
Ironically, by pushing ourselves beyond the limit and depriving ourselves of a good night’s sleep, our performance declines dramatically. Numerous studies show that sleep deprivation results in impairments to our cognitive ability, attention, working memory, long-term memory and decision making ability. This has serious effects on people working with dangerous machinery as much as it does on executives with a huge responsibility for staff. Every day, these employees are called upon to make decisions that could affect them and others; obtaining better sleep, and, if necessary, following a personalized sleep plan, needs to become a bigger priority in America. It could be a matter of life or death for millions of employees across the nation.
Physical and Mental Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Missing out on required zzz time not only affects work and academic performance; but also increase the likelihood of obesity and stress-related conditions. Sleep has many benefits for brain health; studies indicate that the brain clears out toxins more rapidly when we are asleep than we are awake. It is also important for higher functions such as multitasking and divergent thinking (or ‘thinking outside the box – a crucial skill for those working in creative professions). Sleep problems are linked to depression and anxiety; those who enjoy less than six or more than eight hours per night have a greater risk of these mental conditions. One study presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual conference revealed that when radiologists slept for three hours during a 24-hour shift, their blood pressure, heart rate and levels of stress hormone, cortisol, rose significantly.
Negotiating with the Sandman
To obtain more sleep, routine, mindfulness based activities which reduce stress (including yoga) and relaxation exercise can help, as can avoiding stimulants like caffeine and energy drinks in the hours leading up to bedtime. However, if you truly suffer from insomnia, a sleep coach, who takes an individualized approach to your problem, is your best solution. One size does not fit all; a coach will take into account your needs and preferences and if you have little children, they too can benefit from a personalized coaching approach.
There are many reasons why you might be lacking sleep – you might have a new baby or toddler in the home, or you might have taken on longer work hours or a second job, trading in vital sleep for a bigger income. Bearing in mind that sleep deprivation results in poorer performance, riskier behavior on the road and a risk of physical and mental illness alike, isn’t it about time you started giving sleep the importance it deserves in your life?