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Sleep Deprivation
Sleep Deprivation, Insomnia

How it actually affects you

Burning the candle at both ends? Binge-watching TV night after night into the early hours? Getting too little sleep makes you feel mentally fuzzy and physically exhausted the next day, but that’s not all. Long term lack of sleep can affect your physical health and your mental health. In fact, sleep deprivation or insomnia can make you sick.

How much sleep do we need?

As an adult you need between seven and nine hours of good quality sleep a night. If you wake up frequently during the night, struggle with insomnia or if you have breathing difficulties then you will not be getting the quality sleep necessary for good health, no matter how many hours of sleep you are getting.

How can a lack of sleep affect our health?

It can affect our immune system: If your immune system weakens – which happens when you don’t get enough sleep – then you are more likely to get infections, like colds or flu. A low immune system also impacts on the length of time it takes to recover from an illness.

It can affect our heart health: Getting too little sleep or experiencing insomnia can mean more stress on the body, and an increase in the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). Studies have shown that an ongoing shortage of sleep can result in a higher heart rate, and heart problems like strokes and heart attacks.

It can cause us to gain weight: A lack of sleep can make us produce too much ghrelin, a hormone that makes us feel hungry. It can also increase the amount of another hormone called cortisol. This is known as our stress hormone and increases our anxiety, which is often linked to emotional overeating.

It can affect our brain: A lack of sleep can play havoc on our brains – we all know that one bad, sleepless night can cause brain fog, and a bad mood. Ongoing sleep deprivation has an impact on different parts of our brain, which affects us physically. For example, a lack of sleep can cause problems with balance and coordination. It is no coincidence that many car accidents are a result of exhaustion. It also impacts on our memory, our ability to concentrate, and our emotions. Long term sleep deprivation has been linked to clinical depression.

How to get enough sleep

  • Avoid drinking products that contain caffeine (tea, coffee, and some fizzy drinks) a few hours before you go to bed; that can lead to lack of sleep or deprivation.
  • Aim to go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Try to stick to this schedule even on weekends.
  • Do something relaxing before going to bed. Have a long bath for example or meditate. Switch off all your electronic appliances at least an hour before you sleep.

If you can’t sleep because you are anxious or stressed, then it might help to speak to a professional. Woolies has partnered with Company Wellness Solutions (CWS), an independent service provider, to offer you help and support. Click here to access Our Wellness Helplines.

You also have the option to speak to a CWS expert via a chat box. Click on the ‘chat now’ option and to speak to a Mental Health Specialist, Legal Advisor, Debt Counsellor or Personal Trainer/Dietitian.