Sleep: it’s free. And we all want more of it, so why is it so hard to get? Specifically – that consistent, restorative, uninterrupted, eight-hours-a-night kinda sleep. Which is why we’ve enlisted Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo to solve our myriad of sleep concerns with our Sleep Well Wednesdays series. Check back every fortnight and you’ll be off to the land of nod before you know it.
Feeling fatigued is a given, but there are a host of other symptoms of sleep deprivation – and especially in the thick of February; a time which we are busier than ever at work, while still trying to catch the last sunshine of summer, we can be burning the candles at both ends.
And while you may think it’s OK to skimp on sleep for a few nights, after reading this piece, you may consider otherwise – at least, that’s what I hope.
1. Feeling fatigued, constantly
As mentioned, no surprises here to mention this. However, what may interest you is to exactly why this happens. Essentially, during sleep, our bodies produce human growth hormone – the key catalyst for muscle repair.
In fact, research by the University of Chicago found that 70 per cent of human growth hormone is produced in slow wave sleep – as in, deep sleep. So – if you’re waking fatigued and finding the simplest of tasks challenging, it’s likely you haven’t spent enough time in deep sleep and/or sleep altogether.
2. Making mistakes
Left home without your lunch? Tried to start the car with your house keys? Called your client by the wrong name? I’ve heard these tales time and time again from my sleep-deprived clients. If this is resonating with you, take the weight off your shoulders and know that, when sleep deprived, such mistakes are completely normal.
Lack of sleep impairs your frontal lobe – the brain region responsible for decision making, judgment and time management. A 2016 sleep survey by Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation found that 29 per cent of workplace errors can be directly attributed to fatigue – yes, that’s almost one in three. If that’s you, please do not feel like there is something wrong with you. Your body is just trying to communicate to you, ‘I need more sleep’
3. Brain fog
Brain fog is synonymous with sleeplessness – so much so it’s probably the main complaint, alongside fatigue, I hear from my clients.
If you’re not sleeping enough, it’s likely to happen: a 2018 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Found that for each night you don’t sleep enough, your levels of beta-amyloid (Aβ), a neurotoxin that contributes to brain fog, impaired memory and even Alzheimer’s disease, increases by 5 per cent.
This happens each night, let alone after weeks, months or years of insufficient sleep.
Before I go further, just wanted to check in – how does it feel to recognise that your brain fog and mistakes are completely normal if you’re lacking sleep? I hope it’s helping you feel a little more compassion for yourself – it’s just your body crying out for more sleep.
4. Lack of productivity
Staying up late to get tomorrows work done? Sounds like a good idea at the time, but it’s actually leading you to be less productive the next day – MUCH less productive.
According to a 2017 study, sleeping less than five hours makes us four times less productive.
So… an hour task takes four hours.
This is probably due to a combination of the factors above – brain fog, lack of mental clarity, an impaired frontal lobe and fatigue.
5. Feeling anxious and being unable to ‘switch off’
Anxiety is something I personally face and I resonate – it’s awful. From feeling restless to that racy mind that won’t switch off; it can make a seemingly nice experience one that is awful.
And, according to the mental health organisation Beyond Blue, one in four suffer anxiety at any one given time – and if you’re not sleeping enough, chances are this is you: research by the University of Chicago found that just one night of insufficient sleep can see the stress hormone cortisol increase by 37 per cent. After two nights, it’s 45 per cent. The consequences of this include an inability to switch off, feeling ‘wired but tired’ and mental rumination.
6. Impaired immunity
When sleep deprived, we are much more likely to become sick – in fact, four times more likely.
As noted in a 2015 study by the University of California, you are over four times more likely to catch a cold when you sleep six rather than seven hours at night. Yes, just one hour less escalates your risk of becoming unwell by around four times.
In light of COVID-19, I feel we are all looking to protect ourselves from illnesses – and sleep is a surefire way to get there.
7. Sugar cravings
If that mid morning muffin or 3pm treat seems irresistible, don’t blame your lack of willpower – you’re probably just sleep deprived.
A 2004 study led by the University of Chicago found that sugar cravings increase by as much as 45 per cent after only two nights of insufficient sleep. In addition, you also have a 28 per cent increase in the hunger hormone ghrelin and an 18 per cent decrease in hunger hormone leptin.
This means you’re hungrier, less satisfied when you do eat, and specifically craving sugar.
So – as you can see, sleep isn’t just about what happens in the evening – actually, it impacts your whole life.
From your emotional wellbeing through to how you show up at work, these signs highlight the importance – nay, necessity – of sleep to be at your best – inside and out.
I trust this is helpful to learn, and also trust that should you be showing these signs, you know there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you – you just need more sleep. And, if that is the case, know that experts like myself can help you do exactly that.
Until next time, sleep well.