Expressions such as ”burning the midnight oil” sure do look good on a nice shiny plaque, however, they hold little in terms of practical application, especially considering what we now know about sleep deprivation and its impact on our productivity and overall health.
Yes, there are rare instances which require us to push past midnight; however, continuously depriving yourself of quality sleep will literally drive you into the ground. Within this article, we will discuss why a lack of sleep does a lot more harm than good and what measures you could take to improve your sleeping habits.
1. It messes with your memory.
When we aren’t well rested, it does a lot more to us than just make us feel groggy. From helping us navigate everyday life to excelling at our work, our memory is pretty much the most important part of the equation. And chronic lack of sleep can quite literally bring our progress and life to a grinding halt.
To understand how sleep deprivation impacts our memory, it’s important to first explore how our memory functions. There are 3 key phases of human memory. Acquisition, this is when we acquire new knowledge. Consolidation, when information becomes a part of our neural database. Recall, as the term implies, is when we pull out the stored information for our use.
Sleep deprivation impacts all three phases. To start with, we won’t be able to focus, which means our brain’s retention capacity will be significantly handicapped.
hippocampus is the part of our brain that’s responsible for new memory formation. For new information to “consolidate”, it must be transferred to the prefrontal cortex, where new information is housed. Sleep deprivation disturbs this process by preventing most of the newly acquired information from reaching the prefrontal cortex. Here’s a comprehensive research paper that explains how sleep deprivation compromises our hippocampal function.
Lastly, we find it hard to promptly recall information because lack of sleep significantly slows down our neural retrieval process.
2. It runs your brain down.
Here is a research article that discusses how sleep-deprived people are at an extreme disadvantage. Astrocytes are a type of brain cells that are responsible for the upkeep of neural connections and circuitry. They do so by getting rid of overworked neural connections.
Sleep deprivation can leave astrocytes active for much longer than needed. This can result in the loss of healthy numeral connections thus impacting our brain negatively.
3. It makes you emotionally erratic.
Getting your work done is as much about managing your emotions as it is about your technical ability. It has been observed that lack of sleep can impact our ability to maintain emotional stability during cognitive tasks.
Amygdala is the part of our brain that regulates our emotional response to various stimuli. Research has established that sleep deprivation can make amygdala hyperactive thus magnifying our emotional response to seemingly insignificant stimuli that otherwise may not have bothered us.
4. It’s not worth the trouble.
Believe you me; nobody’s going to hand you a medal for sacrificing your sleep. To be honest, it would be unfair to pin the entire blame on ourselves. The contemporary culture to some extent glorifies overworking; often equating long hours with a one-way ticket to success. However, there is plenty of empirical data, which overwhelmingly opposes this notion.
Here’s a 2014 research paper that examines whether putting in the extra hours increases employee productivity. When workers were made to work beyond 50 hours week, the productivity took a nose dive. Even more interesting is the finding that at 70 hours a week, the actual productivity remains between 50-55 hours.
5. It carries a steep financial cost.
Fatigue and productivity apart; sleep-deprivation has financial implications of mind-boggling proportions. Here’s a study conducted by RAND Corporation. Annually, US and Japanese economies suffer a combined loss of about $550 billion to productivity decline attributed to sleep deprivation
It’s crucial to understand that the quality of your sleep is equally important as the amount of sleep. The following measures will help you counter the major roadblocks in your quest for much-deserved shut-eye.
1. Chuck away those sleeping pills!
You see, we have been wired to take the easy way out. However, more often than not, the eventual consequence of the shortcut far outweighs its perceived benefit. Many of us often resort to sleeping pills such as Benadryl, Valium, Ambien, etc.
These sedatives can disrupt the neural process that regulates our sleep patterns and quality. They do so by disturbing our dream patterns. Our dreams are usually a by-product of when our brain goes through our daily experiences to store relevant information.
Being reliant on sedatives is known to interrupt this cycle. So it’s best to avoid sleeping pills unless otherwise recommended by a health professional.
2. Limit your caffeine intake.
“I don’t need coffee in the morning” – said no one ever! We all need it to get our engines buzzing for the day. However, when it becomes our crack, then that’s a problem.
Caffeine helps us stay awake by facilitating an increased production of adrenaline – a hormone that regulates our level of physical alertness. Now that’s all good and dandy, however, adrenaline also increases our blood pressure and heart rate.
And if we don’t put any limits on our caffeine consumption, then it can lead to side effects such as insomnia, anxiety, jitteriness and even digestive issues. Here’s a study conducted at the University of South Australia. It found out that excessive caffeine not only makes it harder for us to fall asleep but it also reduces the total time we sleep per night.
It’s best that you avoid taking caffeine after lunch so most of it leaves your system by the time you sleep.
3. Minimize your tech use during the evening.
A quick glance at your Instagram feed, maybe an episode or two of your favorite show before you doze off – we’ve been all been guilty of it. What we don’t realize is that our late night tech binge is literally killing our sleep.
Our cell phones, laptops, and tablets emit short-wavelength blue light. This upsets our natural sleep cycle by impairing the production of melatonin, a hormone that’s responsible for making us fall asleep. We take longer to sleep and when we wake up, we often feel tired and cranky.
4. Maintain your sleep timing.
It’s tempting to keep sleeping till noon on our day off. However, this does a lot more harm than good. When we force ourselves to sleep more than we need to, it puts our brain and body off track. Our brain isn’t sure if it’s time to prepare the body to wake up.
When we consciously try and maintain the same sleeping schedule throughout the week, it benefits us in several ways. Our sleep quality significantly improves, we feel well rested it and it brings about a significant uptick in our mood.
5. Exercise every day.
High intensity exercise will also improve your sleep quality, but if it's intense enough you may need to add an extra hour or two to your sleep requirements. This is usually worth doing anyway because of the extra energy and clarity of mind an exercise regimen gives you long-term and the health benefits of gaining muscle and improving your cardiovascular conditioning.
For some ideas on equipment that will help you start an exercise routine in your home, see our blog at www.tworepcave.com
I founded a gym equipment store in 2007 and a blog in 2017. I have experience in lifting weights, running and yoga. My main interest nowadays is in publishing more helpful content on my blog for people looking to put together their own garage gym.
My main focus in fitness is freeweight training and conditioning. I also love unilateral training with kettlebells and other equipment that helps develop strength for real-world applications and prevent injury.
Read more at my blog, Two Rep Cave