It’s no secret that this generation is fundamentally and systemically sleep-deprived and more importantly, living with a desynchronised circadian rhythm. The trapeze balancing act of work, university, volunteering, social life and household responsibilities leads to everyone’s favourite past-time of passing out in comfy or uncomfy places becoming less and less of a priority. Added to that, constant lighting by phones, computer and television screens really confuses the part of your brain that helps keep your circadian rhythm entrained to your daily activities (the suprachiasmatic nucleus).
In 2016 it was found by The Sleep Health Foundation that the observable daytime consequences of inadequate sleep affects 33-45% of adults. A result which has reportedly increased since the last survey in 2010, highlighting the growing problems caused by the ’24/7′ society we live in.
The implications of a lack of sleep on one’s health are heavily reported, with risks ranging from heart disease, breast cancer and car accidents. It’s very clear to not only the scientific community but the general public at large that sleep is important, yet we still without a doubt find ourselves tired and burnt out.
Some people have given up on a good nights sleep entirely and resorted to stimulants and desk naps to keep them going throughout the day, others refuse to yield to the day and try a myriad of things from sleep apps to meditation mantras in order to get them safe passage to the land of fluffy sheep and sweet dreams. No matter how hard you try, in a society which demands maximum output of its citizens, odds are you’re going to come up short and will be accruing sleep debt as the weeks go by.
It’s sad, but it’s a fact of life, and you’re far better off accepting your lack of sleep as something that exists rather than ignoring it and letting it slowly or quickly tear apart your life.
So, what can and should you do about your lack of sleep today?
Well first off let’s start with the basics: food and water. Staying hydrated whilst sleep deprived is imperative as dehydration is a major cause of developing chronic sleep problems . In terms of food, your hunger hormone (Ghrelin) increases in secretion and your satiated hormone (Leptin) decreases, leading you to quite simply feel more hungry and less full. The cravings for fatty and sugary foods therefore increase, and giving into these urges is at times an inevitability so yes, it’s okay to eat rainbow ice cream. BUT make sure you also get in your healthy three meals of the day.
So now that you know what to put in your tummy, what do you do about the increasing feelings of laziness and dread? Well go do some exercise, of course! It might seem counter-intuitive but we all know how stupid that body of ours is, even if we just fool it for a couple of minutes that we’re alive, happy and healthy human beings it will follow suit! Like how you can trick your dog into coming inside and stop bothering the innocent birds by just acting all hype about it.
What about naps? You ask as your face sinks deeper and deeper down onto your phone screen. Yes naps are allowed. In fact, naps are one of the most useful tools in combatting tiredness because they not only allow you the opportunity to recharge your batteries but they also inhibit you from wasting your energy and doing anything a silly sleep-deprived person would do. Be very careful though, make sure to sleep for a small amount of time as power naps are only effective if you don’t fall into stage 2 sleep, which usually occurs after about 23 minutes of sleep – as long as your naps are shorter than 23 minutes then you should be good.
Feelings of unhappiness, low self-esteem and annoyance are all too common whilst sleep-deprived. It is wise to address these feelings when you notice them and at any time talk to someone about the thoughts and feelings you are having. It’s noteworthy that sleep loss and heightening stress can cumulatively lead to a myriad of health problems, suggesting that when sleep deprived you should more seriously evaluate your life tasks and your capacity to complete them.
It’s imperative that when you are consistently sleep deprived, you don’t let the opportunity to have a good night’s sleep to catch up on that accruing sleep debt pass you by. Get to bed early one night and just have a great time doing nothing. Sleep loss is being taken more seriously by the public at large as a problem, but it will be some time before the societal demands which cause sleep loss will be even slightly alleviated.