We never have enough time for sleep.  You wake up early to go to work, get the kids off to school, maybe sneak in a workout and, hopefully, breakfast.  Then it’s go, go, go all day trying to keep up with work and errands and that never-ending list of things you must do.  At night you have to pick up the kids from soccer practice, fix dinner, and get those chores out of the way to prepare for tomorrow.  By the end of it all, you’re exhausted and you probably don’t get to climb into bed as early as you’d like.  So you sleep when you can and drink your favorite caffeinated beverage to perk you up in the morning.  However, that little bit of sleep you miss each night can be more detrimental than you think.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re extra sleepy, your brain only seems to work at half speed?  This affects people more than they realize; most alarmingly so being how many car accidents are caused by sleep-deprived drivers.  The most dangerous of these incidents is when you are so tired that you actually fall asleep at the wheel, but even if you are awake, your reaction time to sudden incidents is dulled, due to your slower cognitive function.  That leaves a lot of room for mistakes, especially the faster you are driving or if something unexpected happens, like a child running in the road or the car in front of you slamming on their breaks.  In fact, the National Highway Transportation Safety Association has attributed as many accidents to sleepy drivers as to drunk drivers.  That’s thousands of accidents a year that could have been prevented by getting just a little more shut eye.

Lack of sleep can also take its toll on your health.  Not sleeping for extended periods of time can lead to hypertension, as well as increased stress and hormone levels, which can be bad for your heart.  Hormone imbalances also may make you gain weight over time by changing your metabolism and making your body store carbohydrates differently.  Not to mention, it’s hard to make good food choices when you are tired and irritable and also to motivate your fatigued brain to get your body to exercise.  Your exhaustion will lower your immune system, which means you are more susceptible to illness.  Sometimes it seems as if sickness is just your body’s way of making you rest whether you want to or not.

However, there are some ways to fit in some extra sleep in our busy day.  A study at NASA concluded that pilots and astronauts that took a 40-minute nap improved both their performance and alertness.  Try it at your lunch break if you’re feeling particularly tired or sneak a nap in when the kids are at their piano lesson to feel refreshed.  However, if 40 minutes seems like too much, even a short nap of 20 minutes has been known to improve alertness and performance and probably won’t interfere with your nighttime sleep later.

If you are still feeling fatigued after seven or more hours of sleep a night, there may be other things at play.  Try to examine alternate reasons in your life that may be making you tired.  Sometimes getting some extra fruits and veggies in your diet can give you some much needed pep or take in fifteen minutes of sunshine for a boost of vitamin D that might improve your mood and give you some extra energy.   Being tired can also be because of stress, so if you can’t get away on a vacation, take a mini-vacation by getting a soothing facial or a massage.  Of course, if you are consistently sleepy, it’s always wise to get your doctor’s advice.

What do you do to combat fatigue?  We want to hear your comments!

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