I studied, I met with medical doctors, scientists, and I’m here to tell you that the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is: getting enough sleep. – Arianna Huffington
Usually, I have a range of ideas written down for writing my posts. When a new week comes, if nothing new has come up in the world, I just go through those, pick one and start writing. However, this week, I am so tired nothing sounds interesting.
So, I decided to write about being tired. Our entire society is geared to going as fast as you can as long as you can and that leaves us all constantly tired. However, that mentality is not good for us.
I recently switched my two 6:00 a.m. yoga classes to lunch time classes and it has been absolutely amazing to no longer have my alarm go off at 5:00 a.m. The price I had to pay for that switch though, was an increased number of fitness classes on my schedule. In the last 5 weeks, I have gone from teaching 9 classes a week to teaching 14 classes a week. The good news/bad news is that they’re not all yoga classes. I have an equal number of core, aerobic and cycle classes in my schedule so my muscles are not at as high a risk for repetitive movement injuries.
I don’t care how old you are, though, that’s a tough schedule to keep; at 58 I am really feeling all that exertion. I am trying to keep myself safer by not doing as many workouts on my own, but my mental health cries out for long walks. So, I try to keep a slower pace when I am out on my walks. As of today, that’s hard to do. As a former runner, it’s just not in me to go slow and let other people pass me. Thank God I’m not competitive.
I Googled a number of sites to find information on the effects of sleep deprivation. The list below is from Levo, in the article “5 Things That Will Happen If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep,” by Neha Shah. It is the most concise, easy to read list I found:
- Decrease in Productivity: Sleep deprivation makes it difficult to focus and make analytical decisions, and causes a decrease in memory recollection and retention. Memory retention is actually reinforced during sleep, which strengthens the neural connections that form memories. Therefore, a lack of sleep will not only make it harder to retain memories, but also to retrieve them when necessary.
- Long-term Health Consequences: According to the Harvard Medical School, studies show that habitually not getting enough sleep has long term-health consequences–including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and more. On the flip side, studies also show sleeping more than nine hours a night can have the same effect. It’s all about the balance.
- Increased Appetite for Unhealthy Foods: A recent study by the University of Chicago shows a correlation between a lack of sleep and an increased appetite for unhealthy foods–such as sweets, salty foods and starchy foods. When we are sleep deprived, our body confuses feelings of exhaustion and hunger and starts to crave the carbohydrates in these types of foods.
- Increased Chance of Accidents: The Harvard School of Medicine, Sleep Division, explains that a lack of sleep can create a public safety hazard because it causes fatigue and inattention. Take, for example, the most recent train derailment in New York City, which occurred this past December. According to the Huffington Post, there was concrete evidence that showed the train conductor had not gotten enough sleep the night before the crash. Now there may have been other factors as well, but exhaustion played a big part.
- Emotional Instability and Higher Levels of Anxiety: Sleep deprivation has been linked to causing emotional instability and increasing levels of anxiety by “boosting the part of the brain that most closely connects to anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders.” According to a study by the University of Berkley and Harvard, just missing one night of sleep turned a rational person into what they called “emotional JELL-O.” Emotional centers were 60% more reactive under conditions of sleep deprivation.
Another contributing factor to fatigue this time of year is the change in the weather. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, we’re mammals and mammals tend to put on fat and sleep more when the weather gets cold. There is nothing more tempting than your warm bed on a cool morning. I can think of few things that sound more challenging than throwing off my warm blankets when I know it will feel cold in the apartment once I am horizontal.
Not only am I programmed to put on fat in the winter, it’s also really hard to make time to cook when I’m rarely home before 8 o’clock at night. During the day I’m so busy running from one place to another to teach that I have gotten into the bad habit of stopping at whatever drive-thru is on my route. So, I’ve been trying to eat healthier. I try to cook on the weekends so I have meals throughout the week and I have finally caved to the pressure of time and ordered meal replacement shakes and bars. I am not eating these to lose weight, I am eating them so I can have something I can grab on the go and still have some semblance of nutrition in my body. I am demanding too much of my body right now not to give it food it can actually thrive on.
Arianna Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post, collapsed at work one day and discovered that the core problem was working too hard and not getting enough sleep. She has since written two books about our society trying to function without enough sleep. In 2014 she published “Thrive,” and in 2016 she published “The Sleep Revolution.” I have read “Thrive,” and it was life-changing.
I highly recommend that anyone who is always tired, and running in circles to get everything done, read either one of these books. In the meantime, please try and get those 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Your mind and body will thank you.