What Are The Effects Of Sleep Deprivation?

Most of us end up missing sleep at least occasionally; we stay up too late taking care of our children, working on a project, or just binge watching a TV show, and the next day, we feel exhausted and unable to focus. It’s immediately clear to anyone who experiences it that even small, short-term incidents of sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on our performance and work.

But how far can these effects go, and how much sleep deprivation is too much?

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

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After even a single night of poor sleep, you might experience some of the effects of sleep deprivation, which include:

  • Lack of concentration/focus. One of the most obvious effects is a lack of concentration or focus. When sleep deprived, you’ll have a harder time centering your attention on the task at hand.
  • Delayed reaction times. You’ll also suffer from delayed reaction times, which is more significant in jobs that require attentiveness. If you’re operating heavy machinery or driving, this can be a major safety hazard.
  • Easy distractibility. When you’re struggling with sleep deprivation, you tend to be more easily distracted than when fully rested. This means everything from coworker conversations to social media websites will be more capable of pulling you away from your work.
  • Lack of energy and motivation. Most of us have felt the profound lack of energy and lack of motivation stemming from a lack of sleep. It feels impossible to get going.
  • Decreased coordination. Physical coordination is also more difficult when you haven’t slept well. All physical tasks become instantly harder.
  • Decreased memory. People who are sleep deprived have a harder time recalling old memories and forming new ones. In most jobs, this is a significant barrier to effective performance.
  • Irritability. Sleep deprivation also affects your mood, making you more irritable and subjecting you to mood swings.
  • Anxiety. Many people also experience higher levels of anxiety and stress when sleep deprived, affecting their performance at work even further.

Over time, if you’re sleep deprived chronically, these effects can become even more serious, influencing:

  • Depression. Chronic sleep deprivation often leads to depression, which can be debilitating for many workers.
  • High blood pressure. The direct effects of sleep deprivation, combined with increased stress, can lead to high blood pressure and a cascade of other negative physical effects.
  • Susceptibility to illness. People who are sleep deprived have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to contagious illnesses even as minor as the common cold.
  • Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Over time, sleep deprivation can make you more likely to develop health issues like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

As you can see, this wide spread of potential effects means that almost anyone, in any industry, will suffer both short-term and long-term detriments to performance from sleep deprivation.

Preventing Sleep Deprivation

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The good news is, preventing sleep deprivation is relatively simple. Your first job is to take sleep seriously; if you make getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night a meaningful priority in your life, you can start making a positive change.

  • Buy the right mattress. First, make sure you’re sleeping on a good mattress. Different people have different mattress preferences, but quality matters—old and poorly made mattresses aren’t typically supportive enough, and can lead to many nights of poor sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol are substances that can interfere with our usual sleep processes. Try to consume them only in moderation, and finish consuming them many hours before you sleep.
  • Exercise daily. Physical exercise forces us to expend energy, and makes us more tired and ready for sleep at the end of the night. It also relieves stress, which can otherwise keep us up at night.
  • Create bedtime rituals. You can sleep more consistently by creating bedtime rituals. Try to go to bed every night at the same time, and in the same way to reinforce this pattern.
  • Spend time meditating. Meditation clears your mind, and can help you get rid of restless, distracting thoughts. It’s an ideal practice if you often struggle to sleep because of a wandering mind.
  • Improve your environment. You can also improve your environment for better sleep, putting up blackout curtains to reduce light or using a white noise machine to drown out other noises.
  • Talk to a doctor. If these strategies don’t work, it’s possible that you’re dealing with a sleep disorder. If that’s the case, your best course of action is to talk to a doctor.

Sleep deprivation has the power to completely sabotage your ability to perform at work, no matter what kind of job you hold. You must be proactive in getting good sleep as fully and consistently as possible if you want to do your best.

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