Did you have a good night’s sleep last night? Most of us have experienced the grogginess, inability to focus and general crankiness that comes from a lack of sleep.
It’s no fun and you feel awful the next day.
But did you know that sleep deprivation can seriously damage your health, especially your brain? Just as exercising regularly and eating a balanced, nutritious diet are essential for optimal health, productivity and happiness, so is sleep.
I recently read a fascinating article in the Daily Mail that claimed that going without sleep for even one night causes changes in the brain similar to those that occur after a blow to the head.
During sleep, your brain cleanses itself of toxic substances.
But if you don’t get enough sleep, these toxins build up in your brain, which leads to an increase in the levels of the chemicals NSE and S-100B in the blood, similar to the brain damage we see after concussion.
Although the damage to brain tissue from sleep loss is not as severe as after a concussion, it is still significant.
Sleep is essential for overall brain health. It also reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s, as well as maintaining a healthy IQ the next day.
Sleep Loss Makes Your More Emotional
Have you ever noticed how much more emotional you feel when you don’t get enough sleep? You react to things that normally wouldn’t bother you. You feel more anxious, depressed or even ever so slightly argumentative – sound familiar?
If you answered yes, then your emotional swings might not be imaginary after all.
New research from the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard Medical School involving subjects in high stress-low sleep situations e.g. soldiers in combat, new parents and medical patients reveals that sleep deprivation may affect our emotions in far-reaching ways.
According to the study, a good night’s rest can regulate your moods and help you cope with challenges, but a lack of sleep boosts the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala.
The amygdala is closely connected to negative emotions such as depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.
Take a look at the 2 images below which show the activity of the amygdala.
When test subjects were shown negative images after a restful night’s sleep the activity in this emotional part of the brain was normal (green circles).
Compare that with the second image with the red circles.
Here, participants who had not slept for 36 hours were shown negative images and as you can see the amygdala shows increased activity, 60% more in fact.
That’s because this part of the brain alerts the body to protect itself in times of danger and tends to become hyperactive when you get too little sleep.
This excessive brain activity manifests itself as feelings of anxiety to pushiness and being stressed out – not ideal when you are making important decisions concerning your business or about to make that all-important sales pitch.
So what’s the answer?
Sleep Deprivation And Your Body
But it’s not only your brain that gets affected by lack of sleep, your body does too.
When I worked in recruitment, the stressful commute, the long hours and the pressure of meeting targets and managing difficult people, all took their toll on my health. My sleeping patterns were dramatically affected and sleep deprivation became the norm.
I needed endless cups of coffee and chocolate snacks every day just to be able to function.
Even when I started an online business, I couldn’t shake off some of my bad habits. With no boss watching over me, I worked even longer hours.
It was impossible to mentally switch off and get some much-needed shut-eye. In fact, it was only when I started meditating before going to bed and exercising daily that I was finally able to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
I hear the same thing from many entrepreneurs. Starting and growing a business can take over your whole life if you let it, to the detriment of your health.
So if you are in this boat, I want to share an interesting infographic by Health Central with you. It highlights how going without sleep for just a day or two can have devastating effects on your well-being. I hope it will encourage you to look at your lifestyle and get more balance.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
We spend one third of our lives asleep. Sleep is essential for survival and as we’ve seen, it helps our brain, emotions, and body function properly.
But when you’re busy juggling priorities, it’s tempting to sacrifice your sleep. I know I’ve been guilty of this on several occasions when I’ve been working on a product launch or a deadline is looming. The trouble is that an extra hour of sleep could make all the difference to your productivity, mental alertness and overall success.
Even though you stop working when you’re asleep, your body carries on throughout the night, repairing your cells and preparing you for the next day.
Without enough quality sleep, you can’t possibly think, create and communicate to your full potential. If you cut back on your sleep for long enough, you could also be heading straight for a mental and physical breakdown.
You may read about successful people who get by on very little sleep, but for most of us the general rule is between 7.5 and 9 hours. Everyone is different so while 6 hours might be enough for some people, like me you may need 8 hours or possibly more.
Be careful not to confuse the amount of sleep you can “get by” on with how much you actually need. You might be able to manage on just 5 or 6 hours sleep but continuing like this for long periods of time is a recipe for disaster.
You’d be surprised but an extra hour of sleep could make all the difference.
A good indicator is to check in with how you feel the next day. Are you energetic and alert until the evening or are you craving sugary snacks and coffee to keep you going?
When you start getting the right amount of sleep, your energy levels and productivity soar. You feel happier and more positive, and can cope better with the challenges that are an inevitable part of running your own business.
Therefore, my advice to you is to get a good night’s sleep as often as you can.
Over To You
How much sleep do you need every night? How do you feel when you don’t get enough sleep? Please share your insights below.