Finding a Healthier You This Year: How Chronic Sleep Deprivation Can Set You Back

Finding a Healthier You This Year: How Chronic Sleep Deprivation Can Set You Back

The moment the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2021, was the moment you had been waiting on for a while. It’s the new year, and you may be busy brainstorming some big goals for your health and self-care in 2021. If you love the idea of starting fresh, have you considered kicking off this year feeling refreshed instead?

Quality sleep is essential for a healthy lifestyle, yet so many of us choose to put other things ahead of these critical hours of rest every day. From our busy work, family, and social lives, it can be tough to make sleep a priority, but if we are going to make the most of our waking hours and lead healthy lives, it is time to reprioritize. Adults between the ages of 19 and 64 need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, yet only one quarter of American adults meet that need.


So why is it that we need a certain amount of sleep? Not only does your sleep impact everything from your mood to your cognitive function, but a lack of sleep can lead to risky behaviors and poor decision-making. Sleep deprivation can even lead to something called microsleep, a short, uncontrollable moment of sleep during your regular waking hours. Imagine if you were to doze off like this while driving? Drowsy driving is life-threatening and involves the risk of microsleeps and a slowed reaction time, meaning sleep deprivation is not only generally unsafe for yourself but can potentially impact those around you as well.

Apart from microsleeps, people who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness may experience everything from slower thinking, reduced concentration, mood changes, mental health disorders, and a worsened memory and attention span. Some physical health risks include a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. These symptoms and risks are increased for those who are sleep deprived because sleep is a critical time for your mind to rest and your body to repair vital organs, muscles, and cells.


Let’s say your goal this year is to get more exercise. Sleep can have a significant impact on that, too. For one, it is hard to be motivated to exercise when you are sleepy and experiencing a lack of energy. Not only that but when you do train while sleep deprived, it can negatively impact your performance. Even one night of sleep deprivation can impair cognitive functions such as reaction time when you are training. Chronic sleep deprivation also puts you at a higher risk of developing pain or feeling like a pre-existing pain is worsening, meaning it can take you longer to recover from your workouts. This exacerbated pain could put a hold on your training altogether. So, if you want to hit your exercise goals this year, consider making seven hours of sleep your first one.


Your body needs sleep, and when you don’t get it, your health suffers. But there is no need to hold off on all your big dreams for next year if you can focus on dreaming big instead. 


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