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Sleep Deprivation | How To Train Your Body to Sleep Better

Sleep Deprivation | How To Train Your Body to Sleep Better

A bad night’s sleep can pretty much ruin your day, not only is there the fatigue that will make thinking and moving increasingly difficult, but there is the affect it has on mood, behaviour, and appetite. In this article, we will take a look at how sleep deprivation can affect you, and ways in which you can prevent it from happening.

How a Bad Night’s Sleep Can Affect You

There are several ways in which sleep deprivation can affect you, but it is best to separate these into short-term and long-term effects. 

Short Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation

  • Fatigue
  • Reduced cognition (brainpower)
  • Bad mood/depressive symptoms
  • Increased appetite
  • Lower libido due to lowered testosterone in men
  • Poor recovery from exercise
  • Reduced movement during the day (therefore lower metabolic rate)

There are ways to deal with some of these effects. You may have an increased appetite, but you can still prevent yourself from overeating. You may subconsciously move less (reducing your movement) but if you schedule an hour’s exercise you can actually move more. 

Even if you don’t, one bad day isn’t going to cause any lasting damage. However, if sleep deprivation continues day after day, and then week after week, there can be some more serious long-term effects.

Long Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation

  • Depression
  • Poor heart health
  • Weight gain
  • Chronic Stress

These long term effects can combine to cause more sleep deprivation, creating a vicious cycle. The correlation between insomnia, depression, and obesity is well established. Having depression can increase your chances of insomnia and weight gain. Gaining weight can increase your chances of insomnia and depression. Having insomnia can increase your risk of depression and weight gain.

What you need to do, is find a way to break this cycle. Luckily, there are a number of ways in which you can train your body to sleep better. 

Ways to Train Your Body to Sleep Better

While creating a sleep routine/ritual can be quite difficult at first, particularly if you are not a particularly organised person. The results are staggering. Better sleep will see you think better, feel better, train harder, recover faster, and you’ll find it easier to say no to high-calorie snack foods. 

Step #1 Set Yourself a Bedtime

That’s right, you are going to treat yourself like you would treat a child. You’re going to have a bedtime, and you’re going to stick to it. You don’t have to go straight to sleep, you can read, or listen to a podcast/audiobook. You can even watch some TV (provided the show is not too stimulating). 

But at (insert bedtime here) you are going to stop whatever it is you are doing and climb into bed. Doing this will prevent you from staying up till 3am on the computer, or obsessively tidying the kitchen at midnight. It will also create structure, and once this is established you can begin to add other habits to your repertoire. 

Let’s say that you plan on falling asleep at 11pm every night. That means that your bedtime is now 10pm. For the first 40 minutes, you can entertain yourself. Just make sure that it is relaxing, but not too relaxing. As counterintuitive as it sounds, you don’t want to fall asleep too early!

If you find that reading a book in bed leaves you nodding off after 5 minutes, then try sitting up more, or even reading in a chair. After 40 minutes, you are going to spend 20 minutes trying to fall asleep. Meaning that by 11pm you should be fully asleep.

Step #2 Have a Consistent Morning Alarm

Going to bed at the same time is great, combining this with waking up at the same time each morning is even better. This isn’t always possible, particularly if you do shift-work. But sadly, that’s a whole other issue. 

Having consistent times where you go to sleep and wake up will really help with sleep quality. Your body loves routine, and it will quickly adjust to the new schedule. You will fall asleep quicker (known as improved sleep latency) and you will wake up feeling fresher and more energetic each morning.

Step #3 Ensure You Are Sleeping Enough

If you are over 20 years old, but under 70, then you should be looking for between 7 and 9 hours per night. Anything less than 7 is not going to be enough, anything over 9 hours is overkill (unless you are an athlete – who can benefit from the extra recovery).

People past 70 years of age can cope with slightly less sleep, around 6-8 hours. People younger than 20 require a little more. 8 hours being the minimum. 

When setting up your routine, factor in how much sleep you require each night. It’s well worth the initial inconvenience of going to bed a bit earlier than you’d like!

Step #4 Create an Ideal Sleep Environment

Find the right temperature for your room, most people find that a slightly cold room is ideal for sleeping. Having fresh(ish) sheets can also help. Turning off any electronic items that have distracting flashing lights or make a noise and creating an environment that isn’t going to stress you out, can all help you to fall asleep better. 

Step #5 Be Proactive Against Stress

One of the biggest causes of insomnia is stress, depression and anxiety are also right up there on that list. Your mind can focus on negative thoughts and worries and keep you up for hours. Until your mind is clear, you’re not getting any sleep that night! 

Now, it is beyond the capabilities of a blog post to help you cure stress, anxiety, or depression. But we can recommend talking to a professional. Or, if your problem is uncommon (i.e. you’re not normally stressed, anxious, or depressed but you are tonight) then a simple thought exercise might help.

  1. Firstly, identify the cause of your stress or anxiety.
  2. Consider the worst outcome.
  3. Ask yourself how likely that is.
  4. Then ask yourself if there is anything that you can do right this minute.
  5. Chances are that there is nothing that you can do at 11pm at night that can’t be done better in the morning.
  6. Tell yourself that the best thing that you can do right now is to relax and get some sleep. Waking up fresh and full of energy is only going to improve your chances of dealing with the situation.
  7. Spend 10 minutes breathing slowly, focussing on each breath. 

This is NOT a replacement for therapy or talking to a professional. This is just a quick thought exercise for someone who may be worried about taking an exam tomorrow, or has a project that they need to hand in. 

But it can sometimes help.

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