Apart from the initial brick wall of fatigue, not much in the short term.
It’s in the long run that you will see some negative consequences. Increased fat gain in adolescents (2), poor mental health (3) and wear and tear of the body (4). I don’t need to quote the research to tell you that lack of sleep isn’t the best idea. While you can survive without sleep, it’s extremely difficult to thrive. The need for sleep increases the more you ask of your body, especially for athletes. Top athletes like Lebron James and Roger Federer, amongst many others, have been known to sleep for up to 10-12 hours per day. You can’t have the increased output without the increased input. Injury risk increases massively with decreased sleep in athletes (5).
What to do about it?
Obviously, we aren’t all living the athlete life so to expect athlete levels of sleep would be highly unrealistic. You wouldn’t get any work done and you would probably be out of a job. I believe in small habits to make big changes. You won’t sort out your sleep issues in 1 night. You can change the direction you’re going in with a decision and a commitment to your health, which can start with sleep
Improve your sleep hygiene
I don’t mean washing before bed, although a cold shower (if you practise these) can help regulate body temperature to help you drift off into a deep sleep. Sleep hygiene is everything you do before bed. It starts before you want to go to bed. Your body is like a dimmer switch of hormones that has to be gradually turned down. If you are overworked, drink lots of coffee and have “no problems sleeping” but are still tired then your adrenal glands might be overworked. Your adrenal glands produce your energy in the body and you should look after them.
Ease off the stimulants
Caffeine in coffee and energy drinks can have a half life of 8 hours depending on how fast your genetics metabolise it. This means that if you have 100mg of caffeine at 12 noon then you could still have 50mg in your system at 8pm. Any energy-based stimulant should be minimised. Start by reducing size of coffee as well as quantity. Switch to decaf to help the transition. No coffee after 12 will help you get into a deeper sleep, quicker. Taking 1 whole week off of any caffeine every 4-6 weeks will do your body a massive favour.
Electronics can be a stimulant. Not just the fact that they give off blue light that interrupts your natural sleep hormones (6), but electronics usually come with emails, social media and entertainment that can keep your mind active. The worst thing before bed. Make a rule: 1 hour before bed, no electronics. No phone or chargers in the room.
Keep it calm
Ease yourself into bed. As you slow down, your body gets a chance to lower stress hormones. This will help your quality of sleep, as well as make you feel better in general. Combine this rule with your no electronics rule. Low lights, ideally candle light. Get some blue-light-blocking glasses if you haven’t already. This will help your body think it’s time for bed instead of being stimulated by artificial daylight. Read, meditate, journal, or do all 3. These have proven benefits for your mental health as well as helping to brain dump and ease you into bed.
Wanting to get to bed earlier isn’t enough. Taking action, no matter how small is where you will notice a difference. It may seem small but it will build over time. The simple act of putting your phone on charge in a different room massively increases chances of a successful nights sleep with no distractions. You are only as strong as your environment. Set yourself up for success.
If you found this useful, tag a friend or share on your socials.
Fabio (sleep lover) Bonanno
(1) National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2352721815000157
(2) Longitudinal impact of sleep on overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: a systematic review and bias-adjusted meta-analysis – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25589359
(3) Shift Work and Poor Mental Health: A Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Studies – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31536404
(4) Sleep Deprivation and Circadian Disruption: Stress, Allostasis, and Allostatic Load – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26055668
(5) Optimizing sleep to maximize performance: implications and recommendations for elite athletes – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27367265
(6) The influence of night-time electronic device use on subsequent sleep and propensity to be physically active the following day – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07420528.2019.1588287?journalCode=icbi20