“There’s so much to do and experience in my life, that sometimes I feel like 24 hours are not enough. So how do I make time? Well, I sleep for 7 to 8 hours a day . . . now THAT is a wasteful activity I can cut down on!”
And so, fuelled by this self-talk, we keep pushing ourselves to ever-decreasing levels of sleep. And when we feel guilty, we justify this decision by looking up to the super-achievers in our fields — those who regularly appear on TV and like to boast that they run on three or four hours of daily sleep.
As the saying goes, there are no free lunches. So what do we lose when we lose sleep. A lot, apparently. The pointless-looking state we call sleep is the single most important rejuvenator for our body. Without sleep, we can’t go on for three to four days without collapsing. In fact, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation will leave you shell-shocked.
Even a night’s worth of bad sleep affects the mood negatively; we all have experienced that sometime in our lives. When we push it over many days, we are prone to become short-tempered, volatile and needlessly emotional. Over time, it escalates into depression and anxiety problems, which can keep getting worse.
Improper sleep negatively affects the areas of the brain associated with creativity, concentration, and general problem-solving. All in all, this means increased levels of frustration and bad decision-making in life and career.
High blood pressure
Sleeping less inhibits the body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to increased levels of blood pressure. High blood pressure is not to be taken lightly, as it can easily damage the brain’s blood vessels, thereby causing a stroke. It also affects the heart, and can lead to heart attacks.
Diabetes and weight gain
Sleeping well helps produce sufficient amounts of insulin, which is critical to regulating the body’s sugar levels. People who don’t sleep enough gradually sink towards Type II diabetes. Improper sleep also messes up with the chemicals that fire when your stomach is full, causing you to overeat and gain weight. With weight gain come a myriad of problems that are frightening on their own.
Low sleep reduces the body’s ability to balance itself. This can manifest as falls, or worse, accidents when you are driving or doing some other activity. For those who work with machinery, the risk is just too high.
To sum it up, those few minutes (or hours) gained at the expense of sleep aren’t worth it. And please let’s not fool ourselves: just because we sleep less and yet don’t feel sleepy doesn’t mean the body isn’t moving towards the danger zone. There are many stories of high-profile achievers who just collapsed one day, simply because the lack of sleep finally accumulated to a point that the body just shut down.
Do yourself a favour: sleep a little more.