Losing sleep because of work can severely impact your health and well-being.
Losing sleep because of work? If either your work schedule or work-related your stress is causing sleep deprivation, it can wreak havoc on health. According to the CDC, an estimated 40.6 million Americans sleep six hours or less a day, and the most affected are night shift workers. Sleeping less than seven to eight hours per day can cause serious physical illness with cardiovascular problems being the most common complaint. Not getting enough sleep is also linked to depression and other mental health issues.
How Sleeplessness Affects the Brain
When it comes to lack of sleep, the brain is one of the most affected parts of the body. Aside from being tired and mostly out of sorts, continuous sleep deprivation can make you moody and emotional. It can also make you cranky and quick-tempered. While these do not seem to be that serious, chronic sleep deprivation can later lead to anxiety or depression and may even bring mental health issues to the surface for those who are predisposed to mental illness.
According to Harvard Medical School, sleeping problems can increase the risk or “even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders.” Aside from mood changes, you may experience memory issues, too. It can also affect your performance at work and puts you at risk of accidents because your focus and problem-solving skills are impaired due to lack of sleep.
Sleep Deprivation and Your Body
Losing sleep because of work, travel, or any other reason for that matter can cause long-term health problems. Chronic sleep deprivation can increase your risk for diabetes because it causes higher blood sugar levels. It can also weaken your immunity and you will likely contract the common cold more often than before. Lack of sleep also causes high blood pressure, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, causes weight gain, and contributes to a low sex drive and poor balance.
How to Sleep During the Day
Getting adequate sleep is needed for you to ensure that your body and your mind are in tiptop shape. In fact, enough sleep on a daily basis can increase your overall performance at work and boosts your immunity. If you always work different shifts, it is important that you make sleep a priority not only for the sake of your physical health but for the benefit of your mental health as well.
Sleep doesn’t have to be at night but it has to be your body’s biological night, according to a published in the journal, Sleep Medicine Clinics. However, for most people who work nights, chronic exhaustion is typical. The good news is, there are ways for you to sleep better even during the day. This includes the use of light-blocking curtains, earplugs, and letting your neighbors know about your sleeping time so you won’t have people knocking at your door while you’re trying to sleep.
You can also try taking melatonin to improve your sleep. Melatonin is produced by the brain during night time and it functions as a natural sleep aid. This supplement also helps protect the liver.
Strategies to Get Enough Sleep
If you struggle with getting enough sleep because of work, here are some additional tips you can try:
- Try to go to bed and wake at the same time each night/day.
- Use the hour before falling asleep to rest. Stay off of cell phones, tablets or computers as the lights can impact your circadian rhythm.
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol before bed.
- Keep your bedroom quiet and dark.
- Try taking a hot bath for one hour to 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Drink decaffeinated lavender tea before bed.
- Expose yourself to sunlight during waking hours. For those who work night shifts, try using a light therapy box.
- Cut back on sugar.
- If stress or anxiety keeps you awake, consider talking with a counselor and learn stress management techniques to incorporate in your daily routine.
Originally published in July 2019; updated in April 2021.