Maddie De Silva  | June 3, 2021

Most of us know sleep is an essential function that allows our body and mind to recharge, but there is a growing amount of recent evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation worsens anxiety, spurring a negative cycle involving insomnia and anxiety disorders.

 

Why don’t people get enough sleep?

It’s normal for most people to think back on the events of the day or plan for tomorrow as they lay in bed sorting through their thoughts, but excess worry and fear can make it harder to fall asleep at the end of the day.

Nighttime anxiety can create a vicious cycle of sleep disturbance – your racing thoughts can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, and sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety symptoms and continue to keep you awake at night.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination is a term used to describe the decision to sacrifice sleep for pleasure time that is driven by a daily schedule lacking in free time.

Sleep procrastination is still an emerging concept in sleep science, however, it’s a theory that has blown up across social media in late April 2021 with millions of people relating to the phenomenon. Because modern western society encourages people to always be working or running a side hustle, there is little time at the end of the day for leisure, and if leisure time is carved out it’s usually accompanied by feelings of guilt, which is why a large number of us sacrifice our sleep at the end of the day.

 

The effects of not getting enough sleep

If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, you may find yourself snacking more or eating more than your usual, this is because your brain produces less leptin,  which is the hormone that makes us feel full, and more ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry. There are also long term effects of sleep deficiency with the chance of kidney or heart disease rising drastically along with the chances of having a stroke. Your body also produces more insulin, therefore increasing your risk of developing diabetes. Your immune system is also weaker and less effective when you haven’t banked enough hours sleeping so even fighting off common colds can be a challenge.

 

How can you get more sleep

1. Routine

Create a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time, this may be difficult at first, but it is an important habit that allows your body to know that it is safe to fall asleep. This is because the continual interruption of a regular 24hr sleep cycle signals to our body that we are under threat and makes getting to sleep really difficult.

2. Mindfulness

There are apps such as Smiling Mind and Headspace that you can download to help guide you through various mindfulness exercises which can range from 1 minute to 1 hour. (You can also come to our FreoMindfulness session on a Monday night to learn more about mindfulness).

3. Journal

Journaling regularly can become a soothing part of your bedtime routine and is a way of decluttering your mind before jumping into bed.

4. Plan something fun for the next day

Having something to look forward to the next day may reduce attempts to procrastinate about going to sleep. Something fun could be meeting a friend for coffee, making your favourite breakfast or listening to a new episode of your favourite podcast on the way to work.

5. Exercise

We all know that exercise is important for our physical health but it’s just as essential to our mental health too. Moving our body helps to get rid of feelings of restlessness when trying to sleep and also tires us out therefore increasing our sleep drive.

6. Reduce time on electronics

7. Put your phone notifications on do not disturb

8. Invest in a weighted blanket

9. Avoid caffeine before bed

10. Remove artificial lights

 

Benefits of getting more sleep

Emotional stability is increased when you aren’t sleep deprived as having sufficient hours of sleep gives the amygdala, the part of our brain that regulates emotional responses, the ability to react normally. When tired, the amygdala fires more rapidly, and we become more emotional or have more stress from events that usually would not be a problem.

We also experience an increased ability to problem solve and learn new information, as sleeping helps strengthen and code information learnt throughout the day so that it is readily accessible in our neural pathways the next day.

If you’re concerned that you may have insomnia, sleep apnea or another condition affecting your ability to sleep it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist.