You Might Be Sleep Deprived and It’s Killing You

• 8 min read 2


Hustling is good. Hustling too much can be bad for you. While sleepless nights can get your product out faster, it can drive you to the hospital quick as well.

Productivity is gold these days. Most of us are seeking to squeeze out every last ounce of productive work out of us, every single day. This is normal. In a competitive world, like we are in right now, productivity will get you far.

We have hackathons, where we code straight for hours, living off energy drinks. Solopreneurs and entrepreneurs are working their ass off for 18 or 20 hours a day to get their product out in the market before anyone else does.

We have become too busy. While we are creating robots and machines to ease our jobs, we are slowly drifting towards a stage where we are becoming machines ourselves.

To us, work comes first, health comes later.

According to a study conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 1 in 3 adult Americans doesn’t get enough sleep. [1] Another study by National Sleep Foundation reveals that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders. [2]

This is how Americans sleep:

Duration of Sleep in Americans
Figure 1. Sleeping trend of an estimated 444,306 Americans by CDC. [3]

The number is worse in India. A study sponsored by Philips indicates that an estimated 93% of Indians are sleep deprived. The study goes on to reveal that 58% of them felt that their work suffered from their poor sleeping habits. [4]

Now, the question that comes:

Does stretch-coding, or sleepless nights to build your business empire harm your body?

Although an occasional sleepless night won’t harm your body other than a grumpy morning the following day, a continued practice, however, will harm you.

Let’s see how.

How does sleep deficiency affect you?

The number one and immediate effect of not having proper sleep is a bad morning, the next day.

You might have noticed a grumpy mood, lack of focus and fatigue whenever you get a poor sleep the previous night. That’s your body on battery saving mode.

However, the effects don’t stop there. If you keep on depriving your body of its much-needed rest, then eventually your body will be a host to a plethora of diseases.

The list includes some of the common bad boys such as obesity, stroke and heart disease.

In a nutshell, sleep deficiency can:

  • Hamper your productivity. But wait, weren’t we sacrificing our sleep for added productivity? Turns out that a lack of sleep, over time, can degrade your cognition, productivity, and overall performance. [5] A study shows that medical interns made more errors in the ICU when they were working frequent shifts of 24hrs or more, than when they worked shorter shifts. [6]
  • Increase your chances of dying from coronary heart disease or stroke. According to a review of 15 studies, published in the European Heart Journal, you are at greater risk of dying from coronary heart disease (heart attack) or a stroke, if you sleep for less than 7-8hrs a night. [7] What’s more? Middle-aged people who sleep less than 6hrs a night, are 4 times more likely to have a stroke. [8]
  • Tank your immunity. Apart from the deadly diseases such as stroke, not getting adequate sleep can lower your resistance to pesky infections such as the common cold. In fact, you are 3 times more likely to catch a cold if you sleep less than 8 hours a night. [9]
  • Make you fat. Sleep deficiency has been married to obesity over and over again. [10] Researchers suggest that this anomaly is caused mainly due to a disbalance between two hormones in our body namely ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is responsible for signaling hunger, while leptin suppresses food intake. [11] Short sleep duration disturbs this balance and results in over or binge eating. [12]
  • Drive you nuts. Lack of proper sleep can make your more impulsive. Your ability to judge a situation and say no goes down by a mile. Also, you might often find yourself behaving rudely with people around you and be irritated by minor changes. [13]

This isn’t a complete list. It’s just a highlight of what sleep deprivation can do to you.

All these might seem terrifying, but what’s the reason behind not sleeping like a baby?

We will see that in the next section.

What keeps you from sleeping?

Stress and anxiety are the top culprits in keeping us awake at night.

Worrying about meeting your deadline, or paying your bills on time, keeps you mentally disturbed and lost in thoughts, preventing you from dozing off.

Interestingly, getting a poor sleep can drive your cortisol (stress hormone) levels up, by the next evening. [14] This, in turn, can result in a poorer sleep that night.

This forms a vicious circle that keeps on depriving you of your much-needed sleep after a day’s hard work.

Another important factor is the artificial light coming from your computer or phone’s LED display. This light contains a huge amount of short wavelength blue light.

People who read an eBook at night stayed awake longer than those who read a paper book

So does the sunlight, which keeps us awake.

Studies have shown that blue light tricks the brain to think that it’s daytime pretty much like the sun or in simple words, makes the brain think it’s time to stay awake and work rather than falling asleep. [15]

This happens mainly due to the suppression of a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin, by almost 50%. [16] Blue light, by suppressing melatonin secretion, signals the brain to keep its chores going on. [17]

Staring at the computer or smartphone screen during the daytime can be useful. It helps you stay awake, alert and do your work. [18]

The problem occurs when you expose yourself to too much of blue light during the night. As your melatonin production gets suppressed, it’s hard for you to fall asleep.

In fact, a study conducted in 2014 by Harvard Medical School shows that people who read an eBook at night stayed awake longer than those who read a paper book. [19]

Ideally, you shouldn’t be using any of these devices which emit blue light to keep your circadian rhythm in top shape.

The reality, however, is different.

There’s no way out of the world of gadgets. You need your computer to do your job. Your phone to stay connected with the world.

You can, however, cut off the amount of blue light emitted from the screens of your gadgets using a handy trick. I will show you how.

Before that, let’s see whether when you go to bed has something to do the quality of your sleep.

Does timing matter in getting a good sleep?

There has been a long-standing debate on why you need to sleep and rise early. The internet is flooded with early morning routines which are supposed to make you smarter, successful and what not.

School students who stay up late at night, deprive themselves of about 25 to 77 min of sleep

We are given examples of how successful people go to bed early, rise at 5 or 6 AM in the morning and conquer the world every single day.

Being a night owl is sometimes dejected by the society as a fool’s practice. However, your timing has almost nothing to do with your performance and ability to do great stuff.

When I say almost, it certainly means there’s a catch.

Our society is designed to work according to a morning schedule. Most schools, colleges, and offices start early morning.

While this timing is certainly a match made in heaven for morning larks, night owls seem to suffer in this area by not getting an adequate amount of sleep to meet the demands of an early morning schedule.

According to a study conducted by Yale University, school students who stay up late at night, deprive themselves of about 25 to 77 min of sleep, every weeknight. [20] This leads to various issues such as daytime sleepiness, excessive usage of caffeine, mood problems and getting depressed. [21][22]

Falling Asleep at Office
Illustration Credit: freepik

One thing that you should note is that night owls tend to suffer from sleep problems because they aren’t getting enough hours to sleep in order to keep with the rest of the world.

Going to bed at 2 AM is not the problem. Going to bed at 2 AM and then waking up at 7 AM, that’s the problem.

There has been a lot of controversy on the topic that sleeping early, preferably before 12 AM will give you a better sleep quality than sleeping late at 2 or 3 AM. Some people argue on the fact that our non-REM and REM sleep cycles are tied to the clock. Sleeping late will make you miss out some non-REM sleep time (essential for your body to grow and heal itself).

Interestingly, there hasn’t been any compelling scientific evidence to justify this claim.

Therefore, as long as you’re clocking about 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, you should be fine.

If you’re really concerned about when you should be sleeping to feel refreshed and charged up the next morning, give this fancy sleep schedule generator a try. See if it works for you.

You shouldn’t force yourself to bed in the hopes of getting a superior sleep quality. Everybody’s different. Sleep when your body tells you.

If you’re creative at night, either coding, practicing, or crafting something, by all means, do so. Just make sure you get enough sleep every night.

Don’t deprive yourself of sleep by working till 4 AM and waking up at 8 AM, in the name of hustling.

Morning routines are great, just not for everyone.

What to do now?

We have learned how sleep deprivation affects our health. We have also learned why we are sleep deprived. Now I will share some tips that will help you sleep like a baby and clock in some quality sleep time every single night.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Install f.lux on your computer to cut off the blue light emission from your computer that I talked about earlier in this article. For smartphones, phones like iPhone, Google Pixel, and OnePlus have night mode built-in. Turn them on or use a third-party app like Twilight if yours haven’t got one.
  • Follow a consistent sleep schedule. If you like to sleep at 10 PM and get up at 6 AM, do so every night. If you’re more comfortable in sleeping at 2 AM and getting up at 10 AM, that’s fine too, as long as you maintain the schedule.
  • Ditch energy drinks and coffee after lunch. While some people can flush out caffeine from their system quickly, in a matter of hours, most take a lot of time. This can keep you up late at night even when you don’t want to.
  • The golden number hasn’t changed. You need 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night to stay healthy. Make sure to meet the target without fail.
  • Get plenty of exercises each day. Tire your body down for that good night sleep.
  • Calm your mind down. Whatever exciting thoughts might be rushing through that mind, can wait for the next day. Breathe deep and try to settle in for the nap.

Morning person or night lover, you can keep sleep disorders a mile away by getting adequate sleep every night.

Sleeping is just as essential as eating or working. Don’t try to max out your body by working 18 to 20 hours a day.

You’re a human, not a machine that can be overclocked.

Get some good sleep.

READ NEXT: How Your Sedentary Lifestyle is Killing You

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