Before I became a parent my mom would tell me not to take advantage of being able to sleep whenever I wanted. “You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone!” she would say. Of course I didn’t believe a word of what she said to me. How bad could it be? Maybe a few months of a baby who needed to get up every few hours to feed and then I would be able to sleep through the night again, right? WRONG! I couldn’t be more wrong! I personally feel like sleep deprivation is a part of my normal everyday life now that I’ve been a mom for 12 years. Sleep, for me and many other parents, is just a luxury; something that we afford to do every once in a while. I don’t even think I know what a good night’s sleep is anymore but I do long to remember what it feels like! I might sound like a hypocrite (because I’m an insomniac) but sleep is very important to both parents and children for many reasons.
Lack of sleep has many affects but one of the top affects is poor work performance. Trying to concentrate at work while sleep deprived or absolutely exhausted is extremely difficult. Have you ever tried to concentrate on a presentation or in a meeting when you were half asleep? I have and it’s not pretty… It’s extremely difficult to stay focused and therefore take care of work related tasks in a timely manner. Those who are sleep deprived may get distracted easily and take one too many breaks, which your employer and productivity won’t enjoy and you will be less motivated to learn new things. Exhaustion is one of the leading causes of mistakes while in the workplace and that could honestly affect your job.
Effects on Mood
When you’re exhausted you’re more prone to being grumpy and have a short fuse. This is one of the main reasons I try to get more sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep I wake up extremely grumpy and in a terrible mood, that is until I have my coffee. (Lovely caffeine!) If you’re constantly in a grumpy mood you will, most likely, yell at your kids more often because you will have less patience. Sleep deprivation could also effect relationships with friends and your significant others since your mood will be lowered. Sleep is so important for your overall happiness and ability to sustain a healthy relationship with your friends and family.
Ability to Function
Sleep deprivation also affects cognitive function which can be very dangerous. Those who are sleep deprived are more prone to falling and getting injured, falling asleep while operating a vehicle or even cutting yourself while trying to chop vegetables for dinner. Exhaustion can make simple, everyday tasks dangerous or difficult because of your inability to function. Did you know that 100,000 accidents a year are caused by sleep deprivation? Studies have compared driving while sleep deprived to driving while drunk and found that the risk of a deadly accident are at an alarmingly similar rate. Just food for thought.
Are you gaining weight or not losing weight as quickly as you wish? Your metabolism may be slower because of lack of sleep. You heard me correctly, sleep deprivation can dramatically slower your metabolism because it messes up the activity of two major appetite hormones. When these hormones are messed up you’ll be hungrier than you normally would if you got the normal 8 hours of sleep a night. This happens because of a lack of detoxification process in the brain that would normally happen if you weren’t exhausted. Another reason you may gain more weight is because you’re more inclined to grab an unhealthy snack due to the fact that you can’t function enough to make something healthier.
Weakened Immune System
Lack of sleep can make you open to frequently getting sick with a cold or even the flu. Researchers haven’t figured out the exact link between sleep deprivation and a weakened immune system yet but they think it has to do with the T-cells going down and the cytokines going up. If you’re sleep deprived you may also feel like you’re sick due to the fact that your body is so physically and emotionally exhausted it just can’t function anymore. Your body is signaling you that you need to get some sleep because it has no more left to give.
When you’re exhausted your productivity is dramatically lessened because you can’t function or focus on any task that you may have going on. I find that when I’m exhausted all I want to do is sit on the couch all day or even sleep the day away. Not getting any tasks done will lead to stress and then more exhaustion when you try to catch up on tasks you missed because of your decreased productivity. It’s a very vicious cycle that you can find yourself in very easily.
New or Worsened Depression
Exhaustion can lead to new or worsened depression because sleep deprivation can mess with your brain chemistry. If you already struggle with depression, not sleeping can make it worse and make it even harder to function than it would normally be. I can vouch for this since I was diagnosed with depression when I was a teenager and I struggle with insomnia as well. Not sleeping can make it harder for me to feel optimistic about anything and I usually just lay in bed feeling sorry for myself (or crying out of nowhere) much easier than if I had slept the full 8 hours a night. Even when your depression is controlled with medication, sleep deprivation can counteract those medications and make you feel horrible.
In conclusion, sleep is extremely important and more so if you’re a parent. You want to be the best parent you can be for your children and when you don’t sleep you may feel discouraged that you can’t be. The suggested amount of sleep that an adult should get per night is 7-8 hours of sleep. If you can’t get the entire 8 hours of sleep try to get as close as possible.