By Evan Fischer
You know that you’re supposed to be getting eight hours a night, but it’s not always so easy. You rise early to get the kids to school and sit through commuter traffic, then work a full day, pick up the kids, take them to practice, run errands, make dinner, and clean the house. And if you’re lucky, you actually get the kids done with homework and baths and put them to bed on time (yeah, right!), giving you a few minutes to relax and talk to your honey before you hit the hay yourself and hopefully catch a couple hours of zees before you have to wake up and do it all over again. It’s exhausting just listing it all out! But if you knew what a good night’s sleep could do for you in terms of health, happiness, and productivity, you might rethink your strategy and strive to get your full forty winks.
For starters, sleep is one of the key elements for good health. If you’re in a hurry day in and day out, you may not be eating right, which could lead to weight gain (especially if you don’t have time to hit the gym, either). This is not only exacerbated by lack of sleep, but failing to get a full night’s rest could actually be the cause of your bad decisions where food is concerned! There are two hormones that help to control how we eat. Ghrelin is the hormone that signals hunger and tells you to eat, while leptin tells you when you are full so that you stop. When you’re missing out on sleep, ghrelin levels go up and leptin levels go down, so you not only want to eat more frequently, but you’ll feel hungry for longer periods of time. It’s the double whammy of weight gain. And it can lead to more serious issues, as well, like hypertension, high cholesterol, and even diabetes (amongst other things).
Of course, sleepless nights can also affect your brain function. People who suffer from a lack of sleep are generally less focused and have a harder time with memory recall. This means that you could find yourself reading the same email over and over again before you are able to respond. Or you might forget an important deadline for your project. Have you seen those women that get in the car and drive away with a bag of groceries, a briefcase, or a baby seat on the top of the car? Okay, maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch. But you can almost guarantee they’re operating on a sleep deficit. Lack of sleep definitely impairs your ability to function in a productive manner.
And then there is the issue of happiness. Whether you’re up all night staring at the ceiling because you’re thinking about your to-do list or you can’t seem to shake the feeling that you’ve got bedbugs crawling all over your legs (thanks to CBS and their continuing bed bug videos, or possibly RLS), it behooves you to find a way to drop off to dreamland, because lack of sleep can not only make you unhappy, it can leave you downright depressed. In fact, moodiness is one of the first symptoms of a lack of sleep, and it will only get worse as your sleep deficit increases. So if you want to be healthy, happy, and more productive, the answer is simple; do whatever you have to in order to get your required rest each night. The results could amaze you.
Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.