One in three of us suffers from poor sleep. There are many reasons but stress, computers and taking work home are often to blame. Many of us feel grumpy or detached as a result of losing sleep. However, the cost of sleepless nights is more than just a bad mood or a lack of focus. It also shortens your life expectancy. Experts agree that a solid night’s sleep is essential for a long and healthy life.

How much sleep do we need?

Most people need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly. Some people need more than this and some less. In general, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a nap, it’s likely you are not getting enough sleep.

A variety of factors can cause poor sleep including health conditions such as sleep apnoea. In most cases poor sleep is due to bad habits.

What happens if I don’t sleep?

Fatigue, short temper and lack of focus often follow a poor night’s sleep. An occasional night without sleep makes you feel tired and irritable the next day but it won’t harm your health.

After several sleepless nights the effects become more serious. Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You may start to feel down and even fall asleep during the day. Your risk of injury and accidents at home, work and on the road increases.

If it continues, lack of sleep can affect your overall health and make you prone to serious medical conditions. Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Reasons to get a good night’s sleep

Prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system so if you seem to catch every cold that goes around, your bedtime could be to blame!

Sleep can also help you to stay slim. Studies have shown that people who sleep less than seven hours a day tend to gain more weight.

Anxiety and depression are common side effects of chronic sleep deprivation. Not surprising when a single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody the following day!

Missing out on deep sleep changes the way our bodies process glucose. Studies suggest that people who usually sleep less than five hours a night have an increased risk of developing diabetes.

Sleep helps prevent heart disease. Long-standing sleep debt is associated with increased heart rate and higher blood pressure. Sleep loss also causes higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation which may put extra strain on your heart.

How do I deal with poor sleep?

If you don’t get enough sleep, there’s only one way to compensate. Get more sleep!

Be warned, it will take more than a single night to make up for a significant sleep debt. If you’ve had months of restricted sleep, recovery will take several weeks.

To get back on track try to add on an extra hour or two of sleep a night. Do this by going to bed when you are tired and allow your body to wake you naturally in the morning. No alarm clocks allowed!

Don’t rely on caffeine or energy drinks as a short-term pick-me-up. They may boost your energy and concentration temporarily but disrupt sleep patterns even further in the long term.

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