Sleep is important for more than just your beauty (part 1)

Sleep.  Do you get enough of it?  At the right time?

In my 23 July 2012 post, I spoke about the importance of sleeping at the right time.

But what happens if you don’t get enough sleep?

Sleep – or lack of it – dramatically affects your ability to function…both mentally and physically…and thus your ability to sustain you.

I’m sure you know how tired you feel, what a bad mood you’re in, or how hard it is to focus or think clearly and quickly, after you’ve had a bad night’s sleep.

When you sleep, your body has a rest and your brain can sort things out.  Sleep helps you prepare for the next day.  So, if you don’t get enough sleep, your body and brain are not rested and organised enough for the next day.  No wonder you feel terrible and so many things go wrong!

Did you know that not getting enough sleep can severely reduce your brain’s processing speed, attention, memory and reasoning?

It’s not exactly clear what happens when we sleep but we do know that:

  • Sleep helps solidify memories…but even mild sleep disturbances can interfere with the encoding of memories
  • Prolonged sleep deprivation reduces the formation of brain cells
  • Naps can significantly improve memory and performance (and that short 10-20 minutes are best)
  • Lack of sleep increases ‘emotional reactivity’…which is why you become so oversensitive and irritable.

If you don’t get enough sleep, your neurons become over-worked and can no longer function properly to coordinate and process information properly.

When you’re tired, your focus, attention, and vigilance drift. Your mood is negatively affected.  As a result, your ability to learn and remember suffers.   It is much more difficult for you to take in information, remember it and to access previously learned information.  That’s why concentrating is so much more difficult when you’re tired.

As well, you lose your ability to make sound decisions because you can’t accurately assess the situation, plan accordingly, and choose the correct behaviour.   And your judgment becomes impaired.

When you are tired, your neurons do not fire optimally, your muscles are tired too, and your body’s organ systems are not synchronized.  Combined with lapses in focus from sleep deprivation, you become more clumsy.  This explains why you are more accident-prone when you are tired…and why fatigue is a safety issue.

Overall, being tired – especially being chronically tired to the point of fatigue or exhaustion – means that you are less likely to perform well and is therefore not sustaining your ability to live your best life.

So…if you want to sustain a high-functioning life, ensure you get enough sleep!

What are your experiences with sleep – or lack of it – and performance?   Try some of the  brain-training exercises at lumosity.com – when you’ve had a good sleep and when you haven’t.  Share your experiences in the Reply box below.

Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!

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