Are you getting enough sleep?

Published April 13, 2021

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Young man holding his face with alarm clock on bedside table

Tired. Grumpy. Irritable. Unable to concentrate. We all know those feelings and they usually appear when we’re sleep deprived. We’ll also probably have dark circles under our eyes and want to throttle the next person who says “you look tired”.

There are a number of sleep deprivation effects and symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation

Impaired performance

Reducing night-time sleep by just two hours can reduce alertness, shorten attention span, slow reaction time, affect memory and concentration, decrease work efficiency, and increase the likelihood of making mistakes and bad decisions.

Mood changes

Short-term sleep deprivation can cause mood changes and make us more irritable and temperamental the following day. Chronic sleep debt can lead to mood conditions such as mild anxiety.

Decreased immunity

Sleep has a restorative effect on our immune processes. The opposite is true for when we don’t have enough sleep; when we consistently get less sleep than we need, it can impair our immune defences and increase our susceptibility to illness.

Weight gain

Shorter sleep duration appears to lead to weight gain and a higher body mass index (BMI). Being sleep deprived increases the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and makes us feel hungry. It also decreases the production of the satiety hormone, leptin, which prompts us to stop eating. Being tired in itself can also lead to weight gain as we may rely on comforting calorie-dense foods to supply the energy we lack.

Accidents and injuries

Staying awake for 24-hours leads to reduced hand-eye coordination that is similar to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.1 percent. This is why sleep deprivation increases the risk of road accidents and occupational injuries.

Lowered libido and fertility

Men and women who don’t obtain enough quality sleep appear to have lower libidos. Research also shows that men who do not get enough sleep are less able to conceive with their partners.

Why you feel tired in the afternoon

It certainly seems to be common for many people to feel tired, sleepy or sluggish mid-afternoon, regardless of sleep deprivation. This is largely to do with the body’s internal clock, which regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.

Interestingly, one of our strongest sleep drives (circadian dip) tends to occur between 1–3pm, right when the desire for a coffee or something sweet arises. However, the degree of sleepiness we experience during these circadian dips varies depending on a number of factors such as:

  • Sufficient or insufficient sleep The tiredness you experience mid-afternoon will be less intense if you are not sleep deprived and more intense if you are sleep deprived. It is therefore important to ensure you are allowing plenty of time for quality sleep.
  • Blood sugar balance  What you ate (or didn’t eat) for lunch, may also impact your energy levels in the afternoon. If you’re skipping lunch because you’re just too busy, it can cause your blood sugar levels to dip making you feel tired and lethargic. Similarly, an inadequate lunch high in refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, white pasta etc., and low in protein may be affecting your blood sugar levels and isn’t providing your body with the long-term fuel you need to keep going. Consuming a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole grains, good quality protein, and healthy fats is important for high energy levels.

How to cope with mid-afternoon tiredness

  • Make the necessary changes to ensure you get enough sleep at night.
  • Avoid coffee late in the afternoon as it may be having an adverse effect on your sleep. If you need something to keep you awake and productive try green tea. It contains a small amount of caffeine as well as a compound called theanine, which keeps you calm and relaxed but still alert. Also, ensure you’re well hydrated by drinking water regularly.
  • Have a balanced lunch which could include chicken, tuna, eggs or beans, with quinoa or brown rice. An afternoon snack is also a good idea. It’s best to opt for celery sticks with almond butter, wholegrain crackers with hummus or a handful of nuts and seeds.
  • Limit the time you sit down and increase physical activity throughout the day.

 

Long-term effects of poor sleep

Being sleep deprived can have a number of effects on our long-term health, growth and healing, appetite, memory and learning.

With nearly 60 percent of Australian adults often experiencing issues such as falling asleep or staying asleep regularly, it’s important that we take steps to avoid long term sleep deprivation and minimise long term health effects.

How to prevent sleep deprivation

Avoid the call of technology

Electronic media is one of the biggest enemies of sleep. Most of us are guilty of scanning social media while in bed or watching multiple TV shows late into the night, to ‘relax’ at the end of the day. However, the type of light that these devices emit stimulates the brain and can make sleep less restful. Try to switch off laptops, tablets, phones and the TV at least half an hour before your bedtime and avoid bringing them into the bedroom.

Do something to relax

Use the last hour or so before bed to relax your mind and quieten worrying thoughts. Take a warm bath or shower, meditate, practice deep breathing, do some easy stretches or read a book or magazine under soft light. By creating these relaxing pre-bedtime rituals, your body will recognize that it’s time to slow down, making falling asleep easier.

Steer clear of coffee, tea and other stimulants

For some people, drinking caffeinated beverages during the afternoon can affect sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. Avoid caffeine after lunch and as an alternative before bed, try a herbal tea or warm milk drink.

Make a note of your worries, then forget about them

If you’re prone to worrying or having anxious thoughts in bed, write them down on a piece of paper along with some possible solutions that you can deal with the following day. Doing this will help free your mind of these types of thoughts.

Create a calm and soothing sleeping environment

Ensuring your room is comfortable, quiet, dark, and has good airflow as these are essential to help you relax and unwind before bed. Invest in cosy pillows and natural linen, ensure your curtains are dark enough to block out light or wear a sleep mask, and use your bed for sleep and intimacy only, not for checking work emails etc.

If you can’t sleep, leave the bedroom

If you’re upset or finding it difficult to fall asleep after 15–20 minutes, leave the bedroom and do something relaxing such as reading until you feel ready to sleep.

How Nature’s Own Can Help

It is recommended that adults aged 18–64 have between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. For those aged 65 and over it is recommended to sleep between seven and eight hours every night. It’s important that you know if you’re getting enough sleep or whether this is something you need to improve on.

If you find it difficult to achieve this, Nature’s Own has developed a range of Sleep Support products which are all designed to assist with healthy sleep.

Learn about which Nature's Own product may be appropriate for you.

SEE THE PRODUCTS HERE
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