Last updated on November 8, 2021
Lack of Adequate Sleep
By Amanda Cantrell
With so many life changes we’re continually undergoing, a lack of adequate sleep is common, but that doesn’t mean we should accept it as our “new normal”, and it’s harmful in more ways than you think. The good news is you can change your sleep habits tonight and feel the positive effects immediately.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, between seven and nine hours of sleep per night is the recommended amount of Z’s for a healthy adult but most of us average six to seven hours of sleep if we’re lucky. By failing to hit the minimum target of sleep hours means you’re operating on an eight to twelve-hour sleep deficit which translates into a full night’s sleep plus some every month. If these numbers alarm you, good, they should because you’re inadvertently hurting your body in several ways.
How lack of sleep affects your body’s ability to function properly
Sleep deprivation will leave you with a weakened immune system, short-term memory loss, and has even been linked to weight gain. New pathways form in your brain as you sleep that allow you to process new information you’ve learned throughout the day and as students to say this activity is vital is an understatement. Physically you will feel exhausted and unable to perform basic duties with ease and your concentration will be preoccupied with thoughts of sleep. Those around you will inevitably notice an increased irritability response to mundane annoyances, and in severe cases, you may experience decreased coordination. This will increase your risk of accidents that could result in injury to you and others, particularly while working on a job site.
Why you should care that you’re sleep-deprived
As young adults, we tend to believe we’re invincible and our bodies can handle anything we throw at it, and as older adults, we become complacent with bad health habits because we delude ourselves into thinking it’s not a big deal. The long-term effects of insufficient and irregular sleep put you at greater risk of having a stroke and heart attack, diabetes, psychiatric disorders, and anxiety and depression. The last thing we need in this COVID19 day and age is a weakened immune system and an even more elevated state of anxiety and depression most of us students are currently battling now. Chattanooga State Medical Terminology student & local photographer, Katie Hulsey, says her sleep schedule is most affected when she has to travel out of town to meet with clients. Katie continues, “It throws off my whole life routine, and not just sleeping. But what I do to get back on track is to drink my water for the day early, get a workout in so my body isn’t as tired, and lay down early to quiet my mind. It can take a couple of days, but it gets back to normal after a while.”
Tips For Better Sleep
Better sleep is possible, right away, and here are five of the easiest ways you can immediately reap the benefits of changing your bad sleep habits to good ones:
- Drink more water! The human adult body is nearly 60% water and when you’re chronically dehydrated, your entire central nervous system will function improperly.
- Listen to your body. If you’re wiped out and feeling like you need a nap, take one. A quick 15 to 25 minute power nap will give you the quick energy boost you need.
- Pay attention to your diet. Healthier eating habits closer to bedtime will help you sleep longer. Stay away from fried, sugary, and caffeinated a few hours before bedtime.
- Turn off the tv/phone screen an hour to half an hour before attempting to fall asleep so that your brain isn’t overly stimulated, and you’ll be less likely to have night terrors.
- Have a set bedtime and try to adhere to that as much as possible, even on the weekends, so your body develops a shutdown routine that will lead to more restful sleep.
Another highly recommended habit to implement for better sleep is to start a sleep journal. Tracking your sleep doesn’t have to be some long-drawn-out process. In a notebook, write down what time you went to bed every night for a week, what time you woke up, and if you felt rested the next day. Doing this repeatedly over some time will reveal your current sleep window to determine whether you’re getting adequate sleep and if you need to consider making adjustments to your bedtime and eating habits should you decide to track your food intake as well.