Consequences of poor sleep summed up:
Feeling tired and unmotivated at work?
Having enough sleep but still finding it hard to focus?
Or are you experiencing difficulty falling asleep?
33-45% of adults in Australia report having some kind of sleep issue that impacts their everyday life - so you are not alone in this
With the need to sleep for an average 7-9 hours every night for healthy adults to function properly every day, a staggering 76% of Australians report sleeping less than 5.5 hours. That’s at least 21% of your sleep time gone if you're one of these individuals.
While not having enough sleep and sleeping poorly is obviously a pain in the back (sometimes literally), what are the actual consequences of poor or inadequate sleep?
Consequences of inadequate sleep
- Emotional toll
A study highlighted the differences between a sleep deprived group and those who sleep well. If you’re the former, you’re less likely to engage in a healthy lifestyle and leisure activities because of sleepiness. With a bad diet, minimal exercise and not doing things you enjoy, what you get is an annoyed and unhappy individual. In turn, this can potentially create the following cycle: By feeling sleepy, this might mean you'll find it harder to enjoy doing things you like and this can create feelings of sadness because of the absence of enjoyable activities.
Multiple psychological studies have also shown a strong relationship between chronic sleepiness and partial sleep deprivation with depression; where chronic sleepiness increases the chances of depression. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found participants who slept only 4.5 hours each night reported heightened levels of anger, sadness, stress and exhaustion – and this was only in a span of one week!
- Poor work performance
With less than optimal sleep or sleep deprivation, your cognitive ability is naturally affected as well. We’ll go into this in a bit more detail about how the lack of good sleep affects how our brain functions below. However, the consequences of feeling sleepy, being less alert, having reduced concentration levels and reacting slower can also significantly affect work productivity. According to research:
- 17% missed work because of sleepiness
- 17% had a nap/sleep during work hours
- Nearly 30% of adults reported making errors due to a sleep problem
- Looking like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed – permanently
The signs of sleep deprivation can reveal themselves quickly with symptoms of premature wrinkling and dark eye circles surfacing over time.
Not only do we see overt physical changes due to poor sleep, but our body also increases the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that is let out in times of stress. With more cortisol produced, this breaks down our collagen, lowering our overall collagen levels, which is important if we want to keep our skin elastic, smooth and youthful looking.
Simultaneously, increased cortisol also increases your appetite and food intake, meaning that your skin not just ages quicker but you’ll find yourself eating more and gaining weight faster.
- Declining physical health
Continuous lack of sleep is correlated with instances of high blood pressure, heart attack and heart failures. While we are sleeping, our immune system lets out protective substances to fight a number bacteria and viruses. People who do not get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick. In fact, research has shown that the total number of hours of sleep was predictive of those who later became sick.
People who slept less than 6 hours were four times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept more than 7 hours.
Despite our ever increasing awareness about sleep and its benefits, easily accessible through various media sources and research articles, our sleep problems continue to remain a prevalent and pressing issue in today’s contemporary society.
In the next couple of articles, we’ll share life hacks with you showing how you can get good sleep as well as small tips that can help make a big difference to staying energised - whether it’s at work, university or just hanging out with friends.