How Tired Are You Really?
You wake up, get ready for the day ahead, make it through the day and then finally back to bed. But how much thought do you give to whether or not you are fully refreshed after sleeping, and how that affects your waking hours?
It’s typical for people to have a coffee or some other stimulant to kick off the day, and then consume more caffeine throughout the day just to feel normal and to help you get through the difficult parts of the day; or to help your focus/alertness when tackling a particularly challenging problem.
Another strategy is just to power on through the tiredness just to get things done, which can be very frustrating and increase the difficulty levels by a factor of 10!
There is a relatively simple alternative to the above described approaches, but unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t even aware that they could benefit from using it. One reason may be that most of us don’t realise how tired we are and how our tiredness is affecting our effectiveness, health and sense of well being.
Unaware of Poor Sleep
How we spend our time is important. We cannot get a refund on our time and it’s the basis of how our economic system works. We exchange time for currency and exchange currency for things that save us time.
With that in mind it becomes a bit clearer as to why we are spending less time sleeping. Time spent working, or studying to improve our value to potential employers or customers is commonly understood as being time well spent. The increasing hours that we put into earning or potentially increasing our earning power equates to the possibility of less time spent working later. But nothing is without its cost.
The extra time and effort spent at work means less time spent on ourselves to do the things that we want to. Time spent with family, friends or in leisure is sacrificed for the greater good. But, with modern technologies such as the internet, social media and on demand streaming entertainment, it can appear to us that we have access to new leisure and communication avenues that make up for the old analogue ones that we lost.
These new pursuits can soak up our free time like a sponge to water, and before we know it we are going to bed later or not fully relaxed. We then sacrifice our sleep without even realising it and can do this for years.
Lifestyle factors such as excessive electronics use, smoking, alcohol consumption, and lack of physical activity contribute to low sleep duration.Ojile, J. (2018). Everyone Sleeps!—(Poorly) or Not Enough: Sleep as a Priority and Vital Sign. American Journal of Health Promotion, 32(7), 1635-1639. source: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0890117118790621b
The Sleep Health Foundation lists some of the common reasons why people don’t sleep enough here, but here’s a summary of their main points:
- Taking sleep for granted
- Too much caffeine, alcohol and sleeping tablets
- Shift work
- Jet lag
- Eating and drinking late
- Failing to wind down before bed
- Sleep disorders
- Drug side effects
But these aren’t the only causes, just an example. The most important thing to take away is that most of us take our sleep for granted and don’t realise the effects on our ability to work efficiently and the effects on our health.
Good sleep allows us to recover physical and mental resources for the next day. Good sleep is needed for workers in any occupation…LEE, S., GONZALEZ, B., & SMALL, B. (2020). My job impacts my sleep: signs and symptoms of insomnia among healthcare workers. Industrial Health,59(2),86-98. source: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/indhealth/59/2/59_2020-0191/_pdf
Although it is known that a good nights sleep improves our performance and feeling of contentment, by not being aware of our poor sleep hygiene habits we expose ourselves to a variety of chronic diseases:
- Cardiovascular Disease
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into more detail on each point with regards to sleep and sleep disorders and can be found here CDC – Sleep and Chronic Disease – Sleep and Sleep Disorders.
So what are the tell tale signs that we may not have the best sleep hygiene habits?
- Still feeling tired and unrested after waking up
- Unable to fall asleep
- Disturbed sleep or waking up regularly during the night
- Stress and frustration during the day
- Daytime tiredness
- Inappropriate nodding off
The first and most practical thing that you can do is to get enough good quality sleep. Quality is as and may be more important than quantity for reducing the risk of tiredness during the day.
So how do you get good quality sleep? Joseph Ojile, MD, FCCP, DABSM suggests:
- Keep a consistent bedtime, even on weekends.
- Remove cell phones (tablets, TVs) in the bedroom.
- Avoid caffeine after 4:00PM.
- Don’t have nicotine or alcohol within 2 hours of bedtime.
- Limit daytime naps to 20 to 30 minutes.
- Consume only a very light snack before bed.
- Get early morning sunlight.
Ojile, J. (2018). Everyone Sleeps!—(Poorly) or Not Enough: Sleep as a Priority and Vital Sign. /American Journal of Health Promotion,/ /32(7),/ 1635-1639.
Most people don’t know that they are tired and as a result struggle through the day, hoping that it goes quickly enough so that they don’t feel too drained to appreciate their leisure time.
As tends to be the case these days, quick fixes such as consuming stimulants to increase alertness is now normal, whilst going to bed at a regular time, exercising and eating healthy are seen as a chore.
However, through greater awareness of the risks to our health because of bad sleep hygiene, we can improve the likelihood of improving our quality of life.
“Of course no general conclusion can be drawn from these limited data; but so far as their indication goes they tend to show that in the evaluation of sleep and its correlation with psycho-physical activities, barometric and environmental conditions, one of the prime considerations is the quality of sleep and not its amount. The amount is doubtless highly important when certain limits are transgressed, but within these limits we believe the central consideration is /quality/ and not /quantity/…”Rowe, E. (1911). The hygiene of sleep. /Psychological Review,/ /18(6),/ 425-432.