Short-term Effects of a Bad Night’s Rest
While many studies on sleep deprivation look at the impact of too little sleep over a long period, even one night of bad sleep can negatively impact many aspects of your life.
In the short-term, too little sleep can cause impaired memory, stress, and lack of alertness. The inability to focus and slower reaction time resulting from a poor night’s sleep can be quite dangerous—the Department of Transportation estimates that driving drowsy is responsible for nearly 6,000 car accidents a year.
While you shouldn’t overlook the impact of a bad night’s sleep, it’s important to remember that even with the best sleep practices, a night of poor sleep here and there still may occur.
If your alarm sounds and you know you barely slept last night, resist the urge to hit snooze. Although tempting, sleeping in can throw off your circadian rhythm and can result in future nights of poor sleep.
One way to power through the morning is to get up, get out of bed, drink a glass of water, and get some sunshine. If you’re a coffee (or tea) drinker, remember to drink in moderation, as too much caffeine can cause problems sleeping later that night.
If the afternoon slump hits, an afternoon nap of 15 to 30 minutes can increase alertness and productivity but don’t forget to set an alarm.
Alternatively, a 10–minute workout can boost energy levels. No need to run sprints or do burpees—even walking stairs at a slow-to-moderate pace is sufficient.
Finally, resist the urge to go to bed too early. In the same way that sleeping in can alter your circadian rhythm, going to bed too early might impact future sleep.
What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Although often referred to synonymously, sleep deprivation and insomnia are not the same. Sleep deprivation is a broad term for a long-term lack of sleep or not getting the right type of sleep for your body.
Insomnia, on the other hand, is a disorder classified by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep and the inability to go back to bed after waking up too early. Many people experience acute insomnia, lasting only a few days or weeks, during stressful times in their lives or other difficult events. However, chronic insomnia, lasting a month or more, can result from other medical conditions or medications.
Sleep deprivation, also referred to as sleep deficiency, impacts a significant amount of the population. According to data from the American Sleep Association, 37 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 to 39 and 40 percent of those aged 40-59 report short sleep duration. Common symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
The effects of sleep deprivation can include:
- Decreased immune function
- Increased risk of vascular disease, depression, anxiety, hypertension, and diabetes
As sleep deprivation and insomnia have many similar symptoms and effects, this leaves many asking, what is insomnia?
Those who have insomnia have difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or falling back asleep after waking up early. Both acute (lasting days or weeks) and chronic (lasting a month or more) forms of insomnia exist. About 30 percent of the American population is affected by acute insomnia during their lives, and 5 to 10 percent are affected by chronic insomnia.
While there are some shared symptoms between insomnia and sleep deprivation, there are distinct symptoms associated with insomnia.
Common symptoms of insomnia include:
- Not feeling well-rested after a full night’s sleep
- Worries about sleep (whether you are getting enough or whether you will be able to fall asleep)
- Irritability, fatigue, and decreased concentration
Many of those who have insomnia have other conditions in tandem, such as depression, anxiety, or sleep apnea. Women are more likely to have insomnia than men, potentially as a result of hormonal changes due to menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause.
Additionally, insomnia can present as a symptom of depression, anxiety, or fibromyalgia, all of which impact more women than men.
Your doctor may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medications, or a combination of the two to treat insomnia. CBT focuses on training your brain to eliminate negative thought patterns that keep you awake. It helps you recognize beliefs or behaviors that keep you awake while promoting relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and other habits to help you sleep better.
Doctors may recommend over-the-counter medications that induce drowsiness or prescribe approved sleeping pills long-term use to treat insomnia.
Dreams of Better Sleep
Knowing how much sleep you need and what you can do to get better-quality sleep is key to treating your body well. Despite the challenges of busy schedules, stress, and the unpredictable elements of daily life, getting adequate sleep should be a priority. Without it, how can you expect your body and mind to perform at their peak?