by Team Snapbac
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC), one third of Americans are sleep deprived. This is a staggering number considering the mental and physical effects of a sleep debt and the impact it eventually has on longevity. With our 24-hour lifestyle, demanding careers and daylight savings recently robbing us, it may feel impossible to get the recommended 7 – 9 hours, but this could be the difference between healthy, strong and successful and impaired immunity, decreased physical performance and reaction time and mental haze. If you have been burning the candle at both ends, it is time to change your sleep patterns and start paying back those lost hours.
The University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical School did a collaborative study on 48 healthy adults between 21 – 38 years of age. Four groups were created to study 8, 6 and 4 hours of sleep and the final group opted for no sleep for 3 days each week over the two-week trial. During this time, they were tested for memory, cognition and physical reactions. Both the 4- and 6-hour groups came closer to the scores of the sleep deprived as the days passed showing a cumulative loss has the same effects as a complete lack of sleep, and the sleepier they became the less accurate they were in ranking their effects. So, you may be getting 4 – 6 hours a night and feeling good that you are getting sleep into your schedule, but you are most likely unaware of the steady decline in your mental and physical abilities.
Over time sleep loss begins to cause serious health problems such as an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and even diabetes. It affects weight gain, motivation, poor decision making and mood as well, yet sleep is still often considered a luxury in life. If you want to be a healthy person and a successful athlete, sleep needs to take priority with diet and exercise.
If you know you are short on a few hours of sleep, you need to increase your attention to the little things like eating and drinking. As the body tries to conserve energy due to sleeplessness, it will not send the same cues for hunger and thirst, so plan out healthy meals and water intake during your day. Give yourself a caffeine boost, but not too much as the crash can make you feel even worse. Drink one or two cups more than you usually do and avoid high-powered energy drinks or any stimulants after midday. As an athlete, it’s important to workout, but on a lack of sleep you must take it easy as you have an increased risk of injury and extreme fatigue.
It is vital to our health to make up for lost sleep. A nap may sound great but keep it to 15-20 minutes as it can make it harder to sleep at night. Schedule extra hours each night to make up for the loss, and if you have chronic sleep debt, you may need a couple of months in a relaxed state, following natural sleep patterns without alarm clocks and responsibilities. We don’t necessarily need to make up for every hour lost, but it is a good gauge for short-term loss to get your body back to peak form.