No doubt the consequences of sleep loss are significant. The Exxon Valdez oil spill was one of these consequences. On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker struck a reef in Alaska Prince William Sound. Eleven million gallons of oil spilled into the water. It’s considered the most environmentally damaging oil spills in world history. According to Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trust Council, the spill killed: “250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs.” It will take decades and even centuries to clean up the oil. The biggest reason for it – the captain didn’t get enough sleep.
As a society, we suffer the consequences of poor sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation: “Drowsiness in sleep-deprived drivers is likely the cause of more than 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries and more than 1,500 deaths each year. Sleep disorders are estimated to cost Americans over $100 billion annually in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leave, and property and environmental damage.”
You may have heard Arianna Huffington story on how she collapsed and broke her cheekbone and a cut over her eye due to sleep exhaustion. This led her to evaluate her purpose with the Huffington Post and start a new venture called Thrive Global, focused on wellbeing. There’s an entire section on Sleep on the website.
I used to sleep with my phone so I can respond to messages during the night from my clients who were in a different time zone than me.
How do you feel after a poor night’s sleep? Feel tired, groggy, cranky, unproductive? I know I do. In addition to these symptoms, scientists are linking inadequate sleep to disruptions in our immune and endocrine systems. Serious illnesses like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, even cancer are now linked to insufficient sleep. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that when study subjects were only allowed to sleep 4.5 hours a night for one week, they reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted, with overall scores for mood and vigor declining steadily during the test period. When the subjects were allowed to get enough sleep, their mood scores improved dramatically. (Source: The National Sleep Foundation: Sleep-Wake Cycle: Its Physiology and Impact on Health)
Emerging technology and science allow us to research sleep on a deeper level than it’s ever been possible. We know that sleep is important to our rest, renewal and overall well-being. New evidence shows that sleep is important to our memory function, mood, and even cognitive performance.
Our sleep-wake cycle consists roughly of 8 hours of sleep and 16 hours of wakefulness. This cycle is controlled by two internal factors: homeostasis and circadian rhythms.
Homeostasis is the process by which the body maintains internal conditions like blood pressure and body temperature. The amount of sleep is also a function of homeostasis. From the minute we wake up, the homeostasis drive for sleep starts to accumulate until we go to sleep.
Circadian rhythms play a crucial role in our sleep-wake cycle. They refer to cyclical changes such as body temperature and hormone levels dictated by our human brains. The biggest factor in controlling our circadian rhythm or internal biological clock is light.
The result is that the homeostatic system makes us sleepier as time goes on and the circadian rhythms tend to keep us awake as long as there’s daylight.
In Fall, we turn the clocks back which means it gets darker an hour earlier. This means lack of light will tell your circadian rhythm it’s time to go to bed. Try to maintain your normal sleep routine.
To help your circadian rhythms during this change of time, the best thing you can do is control light exposure. Expose your body to daylight as much as you can. Go outside and let your body and face soak up daylight. Exercise outside. At night, manage blue light emitting from screens, TV and light bulbs as it will disrupt your sleep. Stay away from technology and create a sleep routine that includes relaxing rituals and preparing your body for sleep. You can make sure your room is dark so that you don’t wake up earlier than normal. Staying as much as you can to your previous sleep cycle will help you transition to the new time change in a few days.
Finally, take advantage of that extra hour of sleep. It’s good for your health.