For most professionals, the secret to being wealthy and wise is not always hitting the sack early. Working amidst a hustle culture, sacrificing sleep for work is a badge of honour that most of us have worn. But how healthy is it? Turns out not very much. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the key effects of lack of sleep include loss of productivity hypertension, fatigue, shorter attention spans, impairment of the ability to perform, think, and moderate emotions. Sleep not only helps your body rejuvenate but also keeps your brain recharged.
Sleep deprivation is extremely common in India. According to a study conducted by Nielsen on sleep habits, 61% of India’s urban population gets less than seven hours of sleep. The study also stated that around 64% of Indians – the highest in the world – wake up before 7 am.
This World Sleep Day, which will be observed on March 17 this year, let’s have a look at why Indians are losing more sleep and how it’s impacting them.
The rules of napping
As the day reiterates the importance of quality sleep, one can’t help wondering what constitutes good sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least seven hours of sleep, though the time may vary slightly depending on factors like age, health, and daily schedule.
The foundation has also laid down a few parameters that determine sleep quality. For instance, if it takes a person over 30 minutes to sleep, or if they wake up frequently at night and take a long time to fall back to sleep then their sleep quality is likely to be poor.
Why are we sleeping less?
Indians are sleeping less today but there’s not just one reason for their sleep deprivation. For starters, busier lives and stressful workplaces are some of the most popular reasons. Technology comes a close second. Heavy social media use has been linked to poor sleep habits in several studies. Moreover, the push for digital means in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in recent times has changed the way we work and live. As per the World Economic Forum, during the pandemic, individuals were spending an average of 4.2 hours each day on their smartphones. Other factors that have been known to cause sleep detriment include poor sleep hygiene, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions.
Why should we be concerned about sleep deprivation
If health is wealth, then your lack of sleep can certainly make you poorer. Multiple health effects have been bracketed with sleep deprivation. These include chronic diseases, depression and obesity. For instance, research shows that insufficient sleep is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Likewise, coronary heart diseases, cardiac arrhythmia, and stroke have been found to be more common among people struggling with their sleep quality.
A rather much less talked about impact of poor sleep is emotional intelligence which may also lead to cognitive and mental health conditions. Research indicates that sleep deprivation can lead to certain temporary changes in your brain’s metabolism, cognitive capabilities, and emotions. These changes have been known to make it harder for people to feel motivated and confident, optimistic while facing difficulty in processing emotions.
“Sound sleep supports our ability to learn, be attentive, sustain cognitive functions, and keep our memory whole. A lack of it has been found to increase negative emotional responses to stressors and decrease positive emotions. It is now a recognised fact that sleep problems can contribute to the onset of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and even exacerbate emotional stress. Such issues can make it harder to cope with even minor stressors, thereby impacting our perception and acumen,” says Dr Naghma Javed, academician, and a life coach counselor at HCL Healthcare.
What’s more, is that sleep deprivation also costs a nation its productivity. A study conducted on five Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member nations showed that the US sustained economic losses to the tune of around $411 billion a year due to sleep deprivation, followed by Japan ($138 billion a year), the UK (up to $60 billion), Germany (up to $50 billion), and Canada (up to $21.4 billion).
These figures highlight the importance of sleep as a human need that’s critical for one’s social, mental, and physical well-being. Your reason for sleeping poorly might be work, a show that you binged on, hours spent on doom-scrolling, or just a lifestyle choice like too much caffeine, but your sleep debt is putting a dent in your productivity.
You snooze, you lose? Not necessarily
As more Indians are affected by sleep deprivation – which incidentally has been referred to as an ‘epidemic’ – the society at large needs to confront it as a public health concern. It can start with employers being more considerate about their expectations and employees being more mindful of their lifestyle choices. Moreover, it’s not just how many hours of shuteye you get, but the quality of your sleep that matters.
A few tips to help you sleep better.
- Fix a sleep schedule: Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it – even on weekends.
- Practice sleep hygiene: Ensure that your room is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Limit your social media use: You can schedule social media detox days. Another option is to put timers on the social media apps you frequent.
- Include physical activity in your lifestyle. Being active during the day will help you sleep more easily at night.
- Take a power nap: It might be a 20-minute nap at the end of your lunch break or one after a busy meeting. Let sleep do its magic.