The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

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As a subject of conversation, sleep and sleep deprivation has an opinion from everyone of all ages. Many people believe they can survive their life with little sleep and continue with a normal routine, whilst others take a firm stance on needing at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Whilst it may appear to some that these people come across as the lazy generation, they are in fact following a healthy sleep pattern.

Health Cash Plan provider Heath Shield are promoting National Bed Month this March, and as we support the nation in keeping a healthy lifestyle we want to explore the ways in which your sleeping pattern is affecting your health, working life and general health and wellbeing.

Over the years the methods of ensuring one gets enough sleep have changed. Worryingly, many people now turn to alcohol to help them fall asleep rather than the old method of reading. Just five years ago 41% of people would read to help them nod off, that’s now dropped to just 26%. Meanwhile one in five people admit to having the odd tipple at night to help them sleep. Did you know that your salary is also a major factor in affecting your sleeping pattern?  It is believed that those earning more than £100,000 a year often sleep soundly for nine hours or more each night.

You may not be aware of just how important sleep is to your life. There are the obvious pointers such as a lack of concentration, the ability to drive and the ability to make decisions. However, whilst they may seem small affects to some, in a lot of situations, they can be life threatening and impact all aspects of your work. As an employer you would not want your employees having their general work and productivity affected by tiredness, for their health and wellbeing or the success of your company.

The average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night; however, as a nation nearly half of us are getting just six or less. The more a person is sleep deprived the more it affects them at work and in everyday life.

Aside from the obvious effects of tiredness, the health benefits of having a good night’s sleep are huge and may well be unknown to many.

It may be obvious but sleep is a necessity for you and your body and getting the right amount of sleep your body needs allows time for it to repair itself, both physically and mentally and prepares you for the next day. In children and young adults, it especially helps them to grow and repair body cells to keep them healthy.

How many times have you gone to work after a bad night’s sleep and found it has affected your day? Without the recommended nightly hours your brain cannot function as it should. This affects your cognitive abilities and emotional state, it relates to how well we use our brain to complete tasks, learn, and problem solve. Over time it can even affect your risks of developing a chronic illness. It can affect your balance, your co-ordination and your decision-making abilities. Not good traits if you have a highly skilled job where you need to make decisions or one that involves risks or health and safety of you and others. With a lack of sleep over a long period of time you can dramatically lower your quality of life which is a very scary thought.

Being mentally and physically exhausted means you just cannot perform to your usual standard. It can affect your memory and trigger depression and paranoia. Did you also know that a lack of sleep is linked to obesity? Of course, not eating correctly and not exercising go hand in hand with this. However, a lack of the hormone leptin, which helps your body know when it has eaten enough, occurs when you are tired. Your body releases higher levels of insulin when you eat promoting fat storage and a risk of diabetes. You can also increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and a stroke.

All of this can happen just from lack of sleep.

So with one in three of us suffering and home and work life to blame, are we all at risk of a shorter life expectancy or developing health issues? Of course not, now is the time to change things so you can fight against them. Catch up on your sleep and make every effort to ensure that you go to bed a little earlier if you need an early start and build towards those 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

If you find that you struggle to get yourself to sleep at night and are a member of one of Health Shield’s Health Cash Plans why not use your health and wellbeing allowance to receive a massage so you relax yourself to sleep? You could also receive some cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling to assist you with any worries or stress that may be keeping you up at night.

Put your health first and become a member of Health Shield today.



Research and surveys carried out by Pollab Ltd 2011 on behalf of the Sleep Council.