The stressful pressure of an imminent deadline engulfs you like flash floods. Over the last several nights, you've heroically sacrificed sleep to get ahead of the game and even completed your task days ahead of expectation. You feel like you've won, but you've actually lost. In fact, skimping on shut-eye sets you back—way back—even when you meet your deadlines.
Piles of studies show a causal link between a consistent lack of sufficient sleep (7-9 hours) and an alarming number of potential health problems. Sleep debt can lead to situations such as:
- An increased risk of diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
And that's just the physical stuff! Ongoing sleep deprivation can also cause or exacerbate mental health issues. Some researchers, like Jean Twenge, Ph.D., a psychology professor at San Diego State University, have argued that millennials and Gen Z are suffering the highest rates of anxiety and depression we've ever seen.
One line of thought is that smartphones have whittled down deep sleep quality and duration. The bright light from the screen can mess with your internal clock, throwing off your sleep patterns. Scientists recommend you put your phone away at least one hour before bed to strive for restful sleep.
Many people keep their phones nearby to wake them in the morning, but backlit devices prevent you from keeping your bedroom dark. Eliminate your phone and artificial lights and use an old-fashioned alarm clock to get up at the right time. This method helps you get the ideal amount of sleep per night and develop healthy sleep habits.
For younger cohorts, quality of sleep is especially critical. The brains of adults and younger people operate differently. The prefrontal cortex (the rational part of our brain) doesn't fully develop until age 25.
This rate of development means that teens and young adults are often ruled by their amygdala (the emotional part of the brain). Add several disrupted stages of sleep into that mix, and a whole mess of bad decisions and anguish ensues. Getting the right amount of deep sleep at night can prevent sleep disorders and help you achieve optimal health.
Sleeping well doesn't just protect you from negative outcomes. The mental, emotional, and physical health benefits it provides will improve your relationships and professional life—and help maximize the rewards of your exercise routine.
Keep the Peace
Record numbers of Americans are stressed (8 in 10, according to a 2018 Gallup poll), especially those within the Gen Z demographic. Stress, combined with sleeplessness, compromises our capacity for patience and understanding.
Some sleep studies show that well-rested individuals are better able to regulate their emotions and are less reactive and condemning when loved ones fall short. To boot, good sleep hygiene improves our capacity for empathy, creating greater understanding and less judgment and, in effect, more harmonious relationships.
Prioritize getting plenty of hours of sleep, and ensure it's deep sleep. You can try a relaxation technique before you crawl into bed for sleep. Drink warm milk, soak in a warm bath, turn off any blue light, and wear a sleep mask to block out other light levels. Eliminating alcohol before bed and trying a deep breathing exercise will also activate a relaxation response.
You should get regular exercise, which not only gives you daytime energy but can promote healthy sleep habits and serve as a simple sleep aid. Aerobic activity will wear you out, so you're ready for your time in bed. Medical advice shows that exercise promotes quality sleep and boosts energy, both benefits you won't get from drinking copious amounts of coffee.
Tip: Sleep evangelist and author of "The Sleep Revolution," Arianna Hungton, advises shutting down all electronic devices an hour before going to bed. It will raise the odds of getting the best time in bed. Sleep studies show that the blue light electronics emit can mess with our circadian rhythms, which can result in shoddy and insufficient shut-eye.
Move On Up
Nothing enhances brain power like a night of deep sleep. It boosts creativity and the ability to complete tasks with greater efficiency. These results promise greater professional success, especially compared to how exhausted you feel after too few hours of sleep.
The modern workforce demands that we process information quickly and nish projects at superhuman speeds—and sleep is the magic elixir that helps us do that.
After 7-9 hours of restful sleep, people are more than twice as likely to look at and solve complex problems with novelty and greater efficacy, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Poor sleep thwarts our capacity to concentrate and recall data, which could be a liability at work and slims the chances of bringing your A-game to the office.
Tip: Adopt a consistent sleep schedule and maintain it, even over the weekend. Sleep experts say doing so will help you address sleep issues and get 1-2 hours extra on average.
Sleep On It
Whether you're lifting weights to sculpt your physique or hitting the treadmill to shed some extra pounds, you won't see the full benets of your workout without solid slumber.
If your goal is the latter, sleep deprivation throws off the hormones that regulate your satiety (leptin) and hunger (ghrelin), resulting in a ravenous appetite you'll likely overindulge. For individuals striving toward improved tiredness, sleep repairs and rebuilds the muscles you break down while exercising, ensuring increased strength and stamina.
Tip: Meditate between sets. Close your eyes and take several diaphragmatic breaths, focusing on your inhale and exhale. Research shows that mindful meditation helps manage insomnia, improves sleep wellness, and eases anxiety, depression, and pain.