Everyone yearns to succeed. In today’s society, success is measured by a number of different things: education and degrees, jobs and salary, family life, and more. People are constantly searching for ways to get ahead in life and boost their success. Well, the answer might not be that hard to find.
You’ve probably heard the saying “you snooze, you lose” at least once in your life. Guess what? It’s wrong! While many students and employees believe that sleeping is wasted time that they could use to be productive, in reality, sleep is essential to success. So whether you’re a student hoping to excel academically or an employee trying to go above and beyond at your new job, making sure you get proper z’s will be the key to your success.
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How Sleep Affects You
Your sleep affects every part of you, including your body, mind, and mood. Good quality sleep can help you to think more clearly, remember information, and make decisions. If you’re not getting proper quality sleep, the likelihood is your executive function, or the skills and abilities you need to succeed in work, school and daily life, are being impaired.
Below, we will discuss how your sleep affects you and your path to success and what you can do to make the most out of your night’s rest.
How Sleep Affects Your Body
Quality sleep affects almost every part of your bodily functions, ranging from your central nervous system to your hormone production. Good sleep promotes a healthy immune function and regulates body temperature, digestion, and appetite. It can also enhance your energy levels, coordination, and endurance. Take a look at how your sleep can affect each system:
1. The Cardiovascular System
Sleep can influence processes that keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. This includes your blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammation levels. It also can alter your body’s ability to heal blood vessels and the heart.
People with sleep issues are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. A particular study even found a common link between insomnia and the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
2. The Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is basically the information highway of your body; it controls most of your body and mind. There are two parts to this system: the brain and the spine. The brain, obviously, controls your mind, including your thoughts and body movement. The spinal cord, on the other hand, is the link between the body and the brain. The exchange of information between your brain and body happens here.
Chronic insomnia can disrupt how your body sends information. While sleeping, your body forms pathways between nerve cells in your brain that allow you to retain new information. If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain will not be able to function properly and retain information or perform duties well. This can also cause a struggle to concentrate or learn new information, and a decrease in coordination.
Sleep deprivation impacts your emotional state and mental abilities as well. You may find you’re more irritable or experience mood swings. It also alters your ability to make decisions and your creativity, which we will touch on later.
3. The Digestive System
Not getting enough sleep can result in weight gain and put you at risk of obesity. This is due to sleep impacting the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which control your feelings of hunger and fullness.
Leptin tells your brain that you are full, while ghrelin stimulates your appetite. When you don’t get a good amount of sleep, your body reduces the production of leptin while increasing the amount of ghrelin. Thus, you might eat more and be prone to overeating, especially later at night.
Sleep can also influence your ability to exercise. If you’re deprived of sleep, you might feel too tired to exercise. Over time, this will show through in weight gain because you won’t be burning calories or maintaining any muscle mass.
Finally, a lack of sleep tells your body to create more insulin after eating. Insulin controls your blood sugar levels, so having a higher insulin level will promote fat storage as well as increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
4. The Endocrine System
The endocrine system is the collection of glands that produce hormones. These hormones regulate things like your metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, mood, and so on.
Your hormone production is greatly affected by sleep. For example, in order to produce testosterone, your body needs to sleep without interruption for at least three hours. If you wake up frequently throughout the night, this can impact your hormone production.
Sleep interruption can also upset growth hormone production, which helps build muscle mass and repair cells and tissues. While the pituitary gland normally releases growth hormones constantly, sleep and exercise will play a role in how much is produced.
5. The Immune System
During sleep, your immune system produces protective substances such as cytokines. These substances are what fight bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders of your body. Cytokines also assist in sleep, so your immune system has more energy to protect your body.
If you’re lacking in sleep, your immune system isn’t getting the opportunity to build up its defenses. Therefore, you will be more susceptible to illness and it could prolong the recovery time of your sickness. Long-term sleep deprivation can result in the development of more severe chronic illnesses.
6. The Respiratory System
The relationship between sleep and the respiratory system is actually a two-way street. Ventilation and respiration become faster during REM sleep, while the cough reflex is repressed. But people with sleep-disordered breathing, such as those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, can lead to a reduction in blood oxygen levels and cause frequent waking through the night. In turn, this can increase daytime tiredness and affect performance.
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A lack of sleep can leave you at a higher risk of getting a respiratory infection, whether it be a cold, bronchitis, or even pneumonia. It could also intensify the severity of existing respiratory conditions such as asthma.
How Sleep Affects Your Mind
Sleep doesn’t just affect your body, it impacts your mind. Quality sleep is important for memory, attention, concentration, reflexes, decision-making, and judgment. Without proper sleep, you will struggle to function properly throughout daily life. Studies even show that driving while sleep-deprived is comparable to driving drunk. There’s no question that a lack of sleep can greatly impair your mind.
1. Your Thought Process
All of your thought processes are slowed down by sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to reduced alertness and concentration, making it difficult to remain focused and complete tasks that require logical reasoning. Sleepiness can also impact your judgment. Your ability to assess situations is lowered, and subsequently, you cannot make proper decisions.
2. Your Memory
Lack of sleep also impairs your memory. As mentioned earlier, the connections between neurons in your brain are strengthened and allow for your memories to be embedded in your mind. When sleep is disrupted, it will interfere with your brain’s ability to retain new information and turn it into memories. This explains why you may struggle to remember things or often misplace items when you’re feeling overly sleepy.
3. Your Learning Ability
There are two ways in which sleep deprivation impacts your learning ability. The first is because you can’t focus, so you can’t retain information and learn efficiently. The second is due to impaired memory, which is vital to learning.
A lack of sleep in teens, specifically, can risk academic performance. In children, it can especially affect behavior and lead to hyperactivity.
4. Your Reaction Time
One of the biggest dangers sleep deprivation presents: lack of sleep slows your reaction time. Tasks that require a quick response are unable to be completed properly because of the slowed reflexes.
This poses a serious danger, specifically when driving. Research shows that driving while sleepy is like driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%, which is over legal limits in many states! It’s also estimated that almost 20% of all yearly car crashes are due to driver fatigue.
Sleep deprivation hinders a function called information-integration, which relies on quick, gut-feeling decisions and instincts. This is a notable concern for certain workers such as police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and more.
How Sleep Affects Your Mood
Finally, sleep also influences your mood and mental health. When you get proper sleep, your body regulates chemicals in the brain, such as epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, that boost your mood. Without proper sleep, on the other hand, you will feel more irritable and angry, and your ability to cope with stressors may be reduced. Insomnia can put you at a higher risk of depression; in fact, they are so closely linked it can be hard to tell which one causes the other.
Getting the right amount of sleep can help you wake up feeling refreshed and stay energized throughout the day, and you’re less likely to get into an argument. So, make sure you get a good amount of z’s before tackling that tough day at work…your coworkers with thank you!
6 Ways Sleep Equals Success
Now that you know exactly how sleep impacts your body and mind, consider how sleep affects success. Don’t feel guilty about making time in the day for essential rest. With proper sleep, you will be better equipped to reach your goals! Here are 6 ways that sleep can make you more successful:
1. Sleep Enhances Creativity
Creativity is a vital part of succeeding, especially for those working or studying in more creative topics. Unfortunately, improper sleep reduces your brain’s ability to form creative ideas.
While you may not necessarily feel more creative when you get decent rest, your ability to make connections between ideas is increased significantly. In fact, REM sleep has been shown to enhance people’s creative problem-solving skills in comparison to non-REM rest.
So if you’re looking for your next big idea, get a good night’s rest. With sleep, your brain’s possibilities are endless!
2. Sleep Reduces Accident Risks
As mentioned above, your reaction time is slowed when you’re sleep deprived, so you’re at a higher risk of getting involved in an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that after 16 hours of wakefulness your abilities are impaired, and after 24 hours you’re comparable to driving drunk.
Obviously, an accident of any form, especially car accidents, is going to hinder your success. If you want to succeed, make sure the little things–like driving–are not a concern by getting the right amount of sleep.
3. Sleep Reduces Errors
You now know that improper sleep affects your reaction time, decision-making abilities, and memory. Combine these impaired functions together and you have a recipe for disaster (or at least a lot of mistakes).
Making mistakes at work and school is definitely not going to help you succeed. For students, you’re looking at receiving worse grades. While on the clock, you could make critical errors or even endanger yourself and others.
Consider those in a professional medical setting. Certain studies have discovered that, in comparison to 16-hour shifts, medical professionals scheduled for 24-hour shifts make 36% more errors and 300% more errors that result in patient death.
Even if you’re not in a high-risk profession, making more errors at work can cost you valuable time and money. If you continuously perform poorly at work, you might even end up being fired. Save yourself the worries and allot enough time in your day to get enough sleep.
4. Sleep Increases Learning Receptivity
It’s already been discussed that sleep affects your learning ability. A lack of sleep means a lack of receptivity in learning. Research shows that REM sleep is essential for developing declarative memory (facts) and procedural memory (how-to).
Learning new things is the key to success. If you can’t learn new things, you’re never going to grow. For students, this is an especially important factor as school is all about learning. If you do not retain the information you learn, your education and future will be negatively impacted.
5. Sleep Boosts the Immune System
In discussing the effects of sleep on the body, we covered the immune system. This is another vital part of success. When sleep deprived, your body can no longer resist illness. Getting sick reduces your productivity.
Whether it means taking time off work, missing school, or just not getting tasks done at home, a malfunctioning immune system will inhibit your ability to succeed.
6. Sleep Boosts Productivity and Efficiency
When combining the above five factors, it shows that getting good sleep will contribute to an overall improvement in productivity and efficiency. If you get proper sleep, your mood and motivation are improved, you’re able to perform at a better rate, you learn more, and you can be more creative. All of this helps you to succeed.
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How to Maximize Your Sleep
Now that you’re aware of how sleep affects each aspect of your life, including your success, you might be wondering: “how can I get better sleep?” There are many things you can do to get a better night’s rest. Here are a few tips that are proven to improve your sleep:
1. Increase Bright Light Exposure During the Day
Your body has a natural clock, known as circadian rhythm, that helps you determine when to stay awake and go to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light exposure during the day helps your circadian rhythm to remain healthy and function properly. It improves daytime energy as well as sleep quality and duration.
2. Reduce Blue Light Exposure in the Evening
Nighttime light exposure has the opposite effect on your circadian rhythm. It tricks you into thinking it’s still daytime and hinders your ability to sleep. There are many ways to decrease your blue light exposure at night, including refraining from using your TV or phone before bed.
3. Try to Sleep and Wake at Consistent Times
Your circadian rhythm functions on a loop that usually coincides with sunrise and sunset. Make sure you stick to your sleep schedule as best as possible. This includes on weekends when you might have the opportunity to sleep in. Irregular sleeping patterns throws off your circadian rhythm and can disrupt quality sleep.
4. Reduce Long or Irregular Napping
Long naps during the day can confuse your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at night. Short naps that are less than 30 minutes can be beneficial and enhance brain function during the day, but longer and irregular naps will inhibit good sleep at night. If you need a nap during the day, keep it under 30 minutes and fit it into a routine so you’re keeping your inner clock regulated.
5. Avoid Caffeine Later in the Day
If you intake caffeine late in the day, it could keep your body from relaxing and falling asleep in the evening. Caffeine can stay elevated in your bloodstream for 4-6 hours, so it’s not recommended to consume caffeine after 3 or 4 pm, depending on your bedtime. If you want a warm drink before bed to promote relaxation, try decaf tea or heated milk.
6. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed
What is said about caffeine can also be said for alcohol. Unfortunately, studies have linked alcohol consumption to sleep apnea symptoms and disrupted sleep patterns. It also inhibits melatonin production and your human growth hormones. So, going out for that drink Friday night may not be the best idea. Opt for a drink with lunch instead.
7. Set a Comfortable Bedroom Temperature
This might be a surprise, but temperature has a huge impact on sleep quality! When temperatures are too warm, you’re more likely to wake throughout the night. Test out different temperatures in your bedroom to see where you’re most comfortable and what allows for you to fall asleep faster. A basic temperature that seems to work for many is 70 degrees Fahrenheit (or 20 degrees Celsius).
8. Take a Melatonin Supplement
Your body naturally produces a hormone called melatonin, which promotes sleep. Melatonin supplements are a very popular sleep aid that has minimal side effects. Consuming a melatonin supplement about 30 minutes before bed can help you fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality. It also can help with regulating your circadian rhythm.
9. Exercise Regularly During the Day
Exercise is proven to reduce symptoms of insomnia and enhance sleep quality. Developing a regular exercise routine could greatly improve your sleeping habits. Be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime, though, as it may stimulate your body rather than help relax it.
10. Rule Out Sleep Disorders
This is a very important step if you are struggling to sleep at night or wake up frequently throughout the night. Excessive disrupted sleep could be a sign of an underlying health condition, like a sleep disorder.
A common sleep disorder many people don’t realize they have is sleep apnea. One study estimated that 24% of men and 9% of women have some form of sleep apnea.
If sleep is a consistent problem in your life, it’s best to visit a certified sleep specialist. At Advanced Sleep Centers of Virginia, we have a highly trained team of sleep specialists dedicated to helping you get a better night’s rest. One of our specialists will examine your sleeping patterns and develop a plan that can get you back on the road to success.
Take Back Your Chance for Success
If your sleep is hindering instead of helping you, it’s time to make some changes. If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know exactly where to start, don’t worry! Our team at Advanced Sleep Centers of Virginia is here to help you take back control of your sleep so you can succeed. With at-home sleep tests, online scheduling, and a secure telemedicine portal where you can communicate with sleep professionals privately and quickly, we make controlling your sleep as easy as possible.
Tired of being tired? Is your lack of sleep keeping you from the success you’ve always envisioned for yourself? We’re here to help! Schedule an appointment online or call us today at (703) 689-2480.
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