Not getting enough sleep? You’re actually torturing yourself!
Every time you don’t get enough sleep, you put your body through a decline in health and wellbeing.
“I didn’t really think sleep was necessary,” my friend Sophie told me before our Biology exam, “if I could do better in this subject by studying more.” And although she did smash her exams with flying colours, she was still recovering a week later.
Sophie was struggling to get back into her usual sleeping habits, resorting to bingeing on cappuccinos with 2 sugars to stay remotely awake and being completely dazed around campus.
She ended up looking a little something like this. Credit: Sander van der Wel via Flickr
Sleep is so important
Sleep is obviously an enormous part of staying well, but no one really tells you specifically why.
Generally, sleep is thought to be an activity of rest, so that when we wake up we’d feel less groggy and can go about our business—it seems so pointless otherwise.
However, being in a death-like state for a few hours doesn’t just help rejuvenate you from being painstakingly tired, it also does a variety of other things like repairing the body and releasing cytokines.
Cytokines are basically tiny proteins that are crucial in your body’s fight against microorganism invasions. Sleeping strengthens your cytokine army against hordes of evil bacteria or viruses that relentlessly plan to take you down. (You can never trust them viruses. Don’t be fooled.)
So going back to my dear friend Sophie, imagine what would’ve happened to her body if she was lacking sufficient sleep for 2 days, or even 3.
If you’re having trouble picturing it, don’t worry! Science has found out for you.
Sleeping less than 7 hours a day not only makes you drowsy, but also impairs your decision making skills, drastically reduces reaction times and is just straight up terrible for your health.
Does that sound remotely familiar?
Yes, sleep deprivation can make you act similarly to being drunk, a study shows.
Basically, being sleep deprived is like downing a couple of beers every morning and then going straight to uni or work.
And if the majority of us know not to drink and drive, why are we sleep-deprived and driving? Why are we sleep-deprived while doing anything?
It sounds pretty silly doesn’t it?
Still, so many people neglect their sleep- heck, even I do sometimes. Whether it’s to finish watching a Netflix original or cramming in those last few pages of exam lecture notes, we are all guilty of doing this to ourselves. It’s no secret.
Some of us even pull the odd all-nighter from time to time. You can probably predict the consequences of this are just more exaggerated versions of the day-to-day effects of insufficient sleep, right?
However, pulling all-nighters over even a few days is more torturous than you realise.
Sleep deprivation can be used in the most unexpected of places. Credit: Thomas Hawk via flickr
Sleep deprivation is actually used as a tortuous interrogation technique. Because losing sleep leaves you mentally drained, it makes it harder for prisoners to lie or even identify what reality is. Interrogators exploit this, usually questioning suspects when they’re absolutely exhausted and desperate for any sort of wink-eye.
Withholding sleep from anyone for 2 days causes extreme disorientation. At 3 days, it crosses ethical lines because people begin to go insane and have hallucinations of things that aren’t really there.
I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty scary stuff.
Although getting poor sleep can never be compared to getting none, you now know that sleep is no joking matter.
So the next time you think sleep can be compromised, think again. Sleeping for less than 7 hours on the daily will have both immediate and long term effects on your physical and mental health.
So what can we do to improve our sleep and therefore our health?
If you’re really having trouble going to bed at a reasonable time, try to achieve your goals in tiny steps.
For example, if your desired bed time is 10 pm and you’re currently awake till 2 am (doing god knows what), don’t force yourself to make that 4-hour leap! Start by sleeping 10 minutes earlier every 2-3 nights. The gradual change in sleep time is more achievable then just promising yourself: “Oh, I’ll just go to sleep at 10 pm tomorrow”, trust me.
Try to charge your phone and any other electronic devices away from your bed/outside your room.
Messaging your significant other at 2 am is cute and all, until you’re required to wake up in 4 hours for work and you’ve transformed into a zombie. Charging your phone away from you removes the temptation to continue conversations AND prevents you from spending over 2 hours on in the morning.
Limit your nap time.
Napping can be a good fix for occasional tiredness, but can really mess up your sleeping patterns if done incorrectly. The Sleep Health Foundation says the best naps are around 15-30 minutes. Longer naps could put you at risk at getting sleep inertia which causes all sorts of inconveniences.
Sleeping does nothing but wonders for your body. All your organs will love you for resting yourself for a few hours, so start being considerate of how drained they get from working overtime. Give them the rest they deserve!