Today I want to talk about why we need to be prioritising our sleep when working 24/7 – which I know sounds like a bit of a no-brainer when working irregular hours, but surprisingly so many of us aren’t doing it!
Having worked with SO many clients over the years (and from observing my own behaviour)… I know first-hand that sleep tends to get pushed down the ladder of priorities in comparison to other areas of our life.
As one of my clients so openly and honestly shared with me:
“But Audra, I’ve got way more important things that I need to be doing than sleep!”
Ummm. Wrong answer!
So why is prioritising our sleep so important?
Well there are many, many reasons, but probably hands down the biggest is that your immune system is dependant on you getting sufficient quality sleep. In other words getting sufficient quality sleep is an absolute necessity to keep you healthy and well!
This is because:
- Clinical trials have illustrated that without sufficient sleep, infection-fighting antibodies and cells become depleted and are no longer able to protect you from infection.
- Even Professor Russel Foster, a neuroscientist and circadian rhythm specialist, explains how tired people tend to have higher rates of overall infection in his TED talk – Why Do We Sleep.
- Sleep deprivation essentially leads to a reduction in immunity cells called T-cells, whilst also increasing inflammatory cells called cytokines. High inflammation also happens to be one of the leading causes of chronic health conditions that we see in society today.
- It’s a contributing factor as to why insufficient sleep makes you more prone to developing certain chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension – to name a few.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking:
“But Audra, I can function quite easily on 4-6 hours a sleep!”
Well I hate to be the party pooper here, but actually you can’t. Well your body will allow you to (for a while anyway), before it starts sending you signs that actually, you do need more than 4 hours of sleep!
Think brain fog, relentless fatigue, elevated levels of stress and anxiety … I could go on and on.
The point that I’m trying to make is please don’t kid yourself into thinking that you don’t need sufficient quality sleep.
Sure, we all experience bouts of shortened or poor quality sleep, especially if we’ve signed up to life as a shift worker, but if it’s ongoing, then that is where it can become a problem in the long-term.
So what can you do to prioritise your sleep?
I’m going to answer that with a 4-letter word.
Which is ‘TIME’.
Whilst those tight-turnaround shifts certainly makes things harder – (why on earth we even have those is beyond comprehension to me, but I’ll save that for a different post!)
The point that I want to really make is that, we need to start managing our time better – all of us. That means:
– less time spent on social media,
– saying ‘no’ to more things and more people more often, and
– giving our bodies sufficient opportunity to sleep.
Quite simply, getting into the headspace of protecting and preserving your sleep like your life depends on it … because it quite literally does!
Foster, R 2013, ‘Why do we sleep’, TED Global, https://www.ted.com/talks/russell_foster_why_do_we_sleep?language=en
Oliveira de Almedia, C & Malheiro, A, ‘Sleep, immunity and shift workers: A review’, Sleep Science, vol. 9, no.3, pp. 164-168.
Vgontzas, A, Zoumakis, E, Biler, E, Lin, H, Follet, H, Kales, A and Chrousos G 2004, ‘Adverse effects of modest sleep restriction on sleepiness, performance, and inflammatory cytokines’, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 89, no. 5, pp. 2119-2126.