We are increasingly cutting back on sleep to meet the demands of our modern-day lifestyle.  Losing sleep by an hour or two seems to be the only answer to meet the never ending to-do-list.

Who can afford a solid 8 hrs of sleep? Well, we cannot afford not to.

How much sleep do we need?

The amount of sleep depends on age:

  • Infants (3-11 months) – 14-15 hrs
  • Toddlers (12-35 months) – 12-14 hrs
  • Preschool (3-6 yrs) – 11-13 hrs
  • School age (7-10 yrs) – 10-11 hrs
  • Adolescents (11-18 yrs) – 8-10 hrs
  • Adults – average 8 hrs
  • Elderly adults  – less than 8 hrs.

What happens when we don’t sleep enough?

1) Weight Gain

Cutting back sleep by 4 hrs for 2 days will cause increase in ghrelin by 28%. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases the appetite.

At the same time, the level of leptin drops by 18%. Leptin is the hormone that tells the body the stomach is full. This combination will cause you to desire for fatty food to satisfy your hunger and eventually gain weight.

2) Increase risk of diseases

The American Heart Association reported that when we sleep fewer than 6 hrs a night, the level of cortisol increases. Cortisol is the stress hormone that causes inflammation leading to hardening of arteries, damage our heart and immune system.

Insulin production decreases during sleep deprivation leading to increase risk of diabetes.

As the body repair and recover during sleep, sleep deprivation will hinder these processes leading to drop in immune system.

3) Psychological distress

An Australian study on 20,000 people for 1-year period who sleep for less than 5 hrs each night found that there is 3 times more risk of developing psychological distress such as bipolar disorder and mood swings.

4) Aging

Lack of sleep cause the cortisol (stress hormone) to increase, which slows down the production of collagen in the body. This can lead to wrinkles development on the skin.

You may think that 1 hr less sleep per night won’t drastically affect daytime functioning. You may not be noticeably sleepy during the day, but it can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly.

Don’t think that you can make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more during the weekends. This can help relieve some sleep debt, but it will not completely make up for the lack of sleep. Furthermore, sleeping later on weekends can affect your biological clock and it is harder to sleep at the right time on Sunday and get up early on Monday morning.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation

  • Need alarm clock to wake up on time
  • Rely on snooze button
  • Have hard time getting out of bed in the morning
  • Feel sluggish in the afternoon
  • Get sleepy in meetings and lectures
  • Get drowsy after meals or during driving
  • Need a nap throughout the day
  • Falls asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
  • Falls asleep within 5 mins of going to bed.

What should you do?

Take power nap during midday for 30 min to 1 hr. This can help to reverse information overload and improve the ability to learn. 30 min power nap prevents on-the-job burn out. 1 hr power nap restores performance to morning level. This is because during sleep, the brain is able to store information it’s holding onto as memory. Much like filing every thing away.

Make sleep a priority. Just as you schedule time for work commitments, you should schedule enough time for sleep so that you can be more effective in your functions in the day.

How many hours of sleep do you do day?

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