I grew up in a house where everyone said good night, and sweet dreams to each other. It’s a simple wish said by thousands of people each night, but it really is something we should all quest for. What exactly would a sweet dream be? Well, that’s different for each of us. But it’s the result of those “sweet” dreams and the impacts they have on our lives that I want to focus on today. Well, that is, after I get the song “Sweet dreams are made of this, who am I to disagree? I’ve traveled the world and the seven seas, everybody’s looking for something” by the Eurythmics (1983) out of my head!
Full disclosure… this blog isn’t likely to contain any information that is earth shattering or new to you. It’s instead a reminder of the reasons why sleep is so important, and some practical things we can do to improve the quality of our sleep.
Let’s face it. We all know we live in a fast-paced world where multi-tasking is king and technology devices have taken over our worlds. We often cram as many things as we can into a day as we juggle busy schedules and do our best to maintain “work-life balance”. We can carry on for a while—over-extending ourselves—but at some point, something’s gotta give. Sadly, sleep is often sacrificed to make sure we have enough time to get everything done. How many times have you said, well, I’ll just double up on my caffeine? It may be the “easy win” in the moment, but it’s not the best decision in the long run, and here’s why:
“A single night of inadequate sleep duration (generally considered to be less than seven hours) can impact mood, performance and general well-being. Multiple consecutive nights of inadequate sleep have larger effects”. Dr. David White, Chief Medical Officer at Phillips Sleep and Respiratory Care. (Koninklijke Philips N.V., 2022)
The 8 Negative Impacts of a Lack of Sleep
1. Decreased concentration and decreased productivity. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that “Productivity is very dependent on sleep. Poor sleepers have more difficulty staying alert, making decisions, and solving problems”. Did you know that 20% of car-crash injuries and deaths are caused by driver sleepiness?! That’s an alarming number! And it further confirms why improving sleep is so important (Simple Habit, 2021).
2. According to the Sleep Science Journal, “poor sleep at night lowers your glucose tolerance and impairs insulin resistance. As a result, your energy is depleted much faster, causing slower mental performance and physical fatigue.” (Simple Habit, 2021).
3. Hormones and weight are also impacted by sleep: “insufficient sleep affects your leptin and ghrelin hormones (Simple Habit, 2021). What on earth are leptin and ghrelin?! They sound like characters from The Lord of the Rings. Ghrelin is actually a hormone that boosts appetite, and Leptin is a hormone that tells your body when you’re full (SCL Health, 2018). Lack of sleep makes these hormones work against you, which can lead to increased hunger and eating more… so that endless cycle of late-night snacking, increased stress, and not enough energy to fight off those junk food cravings has some exhausting scientific basis to it (SCL Health, 2018).
4. Lack of sleep can also have negative effects on fertility (Simple Habit, 2021), and negative effects on your immune system, because your immune cells and proteins can’t get the rest they need to fight off whatever comes your way, or support healthy cell and protein growth (SCL Health, 2018). There’s some reasoning behind the old wives’ tale to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest when you’re sick!
5. Not getting enough sleep can impact your heart by increasing risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Increased release of cortisol from lack of sleep can also impact your heart function because this “stress hormone” triggers your heart to work harder (SCL Health, 2018). And if you opted to double-up on that caffeine to play catch-up on your lack of sleep, it only makes things worse, as caffeine increases heart rate and blood pressure and acts as a diuretic—so you feel amped up and have to pee more… not really things you want to do at night (Koninklijke Philips N.V., 2022).
6. Negative impacts on mood – I know I’ve been asked a time or two if I “got up on the wrong side of the bed”. This old cliché is a reference to the idea that bad sleep = bad mood (SCL Health, 2018).
7. Decreased exercise performance from things like decreased hand-eye coordination, decreased reaction time, and decreased muscle recovery, and as previously mentioned, decreased focus and productivity which can also impact energy levels (SCL Health, 2018). Some days it can be hard to work up the energy to get to the gym or stay with your fitness routines. Lack of sleep will only make that hill harder to climb, so get some zzz’s first!
8. Difficulty with memory: while your body may be at rest when you sleep, your mind is still hard at work processing and consolidating memories of the day. Lack of sleep may even lead to false memories as some “wires get crossed” because the brain is too tired and overworked (SCL Health, 2018). Getting too little sleep decreases your ability to consolidate memories and remove toxic proteins in the brain (Koninklijke Philips N.V., 2022). That means your brain can play tricks on you and the “brain fog” struggle is real!
Geez, talking about all of these negative things is not only exhausting… it’s bringing me down (see what I did there?!) On the flip side, getting enough sleep brings good things to life! Let’s hear more about that!
The Benefits of Improved Sleep
Most adults need at least 7 hours or more of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep isn’t only about total hours of sleep. It is equally important to consistently get good quality sleep on a regular schedule, so you feel rested when you wake up (instead of feeling like you just closed your eyes 5 minutes ago).
Why is getting enough so sleep important? People with consistently good sleeping habits tend to:
- Get sick less often
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Have a lower risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease
- Think more clearly and do better at work/school (increased productivity)
- Make good decisions and avoid injuries (i.e., you won’t be a drowsy driver)
- Have better exercise performance
- Have improved memory (and less of that ‘fogginess’ that drags you down)
- Have reduced stress and improved mood (better sleep = better mood), which may help you get along better with people!
(SCL Health, 2018)
Now that we know the good, the bad and the ugly about sleep, here are some quick tips on improving sleep quality.
Here’s How You Can Help Yourself: Improve Your Sleep! (Mawer, 2020)
At the end of the day (pun intended), you should do everything you can to get some good zzz’s. But please keep in mind that if you have significant issues impacting your sleep, you should talk to your doctor, there may be bigger things going on that need to get addressed!
Join us as we celebrate National Sleep Awareness Week 2022 with the National Sleep Foundation to be our #BestSleptSelf. Check out their website and join the campaign for a Best Slept Selfie (2022).
- Eurythmics. (January 21, 1983). Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) on Sweet Dreams Are Made of This. RCA Records. Lyrics retrieved on March 17, 2022, from https://genius.com/Eurythmics-sweet-dreams-are-made-of-this-lyrics
- Koninklijke Philips N.V. (2022). “Sleep smart: Sleeping your way to a productive day”. Dr. David White, Chief Medical Officer at Phillips Sleep and Respiratory Care. Retrieved on March 17, 2022 from: https://www.philips.com/a-w/about/news/archive/standard/news/articles/2020/20200603-sleep-smart-sleeping-your-way-to-a-productive-day.html
- Mawer, R. (2020). Healthline: Nutrition. “17 Proven tips to sleep better at night”. Retrieved on March 17, 2021 from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-tips-to-sleep-better
- My Health Finder. (2021). Get Enough Sleep: “The Basics: Trouble Sleeping”. Retrieved on August 26, 2021 from: https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep#panel-4
- National Sleep Foundation. (2022). Best Slept Self. Retrieved on March 17, 2022 from: https://www.thensf.org/sleep-awareness-week/
- SCL Health. (2018). SCLHealth.Org “The benefits of getting a full night’s sleep”. Retrieved on August 26, 2021 from: https://www.sclhealth.org/blog/2018/09/the-benefits-of-getting-a-full-night-sleep/
- Simple Habit. (2021). Sleep Reset “Sleep Quiz”. Retrieved on August 26, 2021 from sleep.simplehabit.com