In recent years, more and more research has emerged about the importance of getting adequate sleep each night. Not getting enough rest can put you at risk of developing a host of health issues. It has also been confirmed that poor sleep affects focus and your ability to concentrate. Here is what you need to know about this important issue and what you can do to ensure that you are getting the rest that your body and mind need to function at optimal levels.
How Poor Sleep Affects Focus
In a new study out of the University of Sydney in Australia, researchers investigated how inadequate sleep can affect an individual’s ability to focus and concentrate. This trial compared 23 people with chronic insomnia to 23 individuals without sleep issues.
During the study, the participants were asked to spend the night in a sleep laboratory, and were given an attention test following their night of rest. Unsurprisingly, it was found that those who received the best sleep also did better on the test. Those individuals that struggled with chronic insomnia found it more challenging to be able to focus on the task at hand.
Why is This Important?
Aside from causing you to feel physically sluggish and unwell, not getting enough sleep can also affect your mental capacities. Without proper sleep, attention span and concentration abilities tend to nosedive. This also means that a sleep-deprived individual may not respond as quickly to distractions, negatively affecting their ability to react to potentially dangerous situations. For example, even something as mundane as your daily commute home can become incrementally more dangerous if your reaction time is affected by inadequate sleep.
When you’re consistently not getting a good night’s sleep, focus and concentration are not the only things that may suffer. Other studies have proven that sleep deprivation may also impair your learning capacity. Additionally, not getting your zzz’s can affect your ability to create new memories and recall the old ones.
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
There are a number of symptoms that you can watch for to determine if sleep deprivation is becoming a problem for you. It goes without saying that one of the primary signs that you are not getting the rest that you need at night is that you are excessively sleepy during the day, when you should be alert.
Other symptoms of sleep deprivation include a lack of energy, sudden and unexplainable changes in mood and poor decision-making. As the study cited above indicates, sleep affects focus, and a decline in mental acuity, subpar memory recollection and a reduced attention span are also signs that you may not be getting the sleep that you need.
What Causes Poor Sleep?
It can often be challenging to pinpoint just why you are not getting enough sleep. Reasons may range from poor lifestyle choices to serious medical conditions. One of the most common reasons that people do not sleep well is the presence of sleep apnea. This breathing disorder may be waking you up multiple times per night without you even being aware of it.
There are also a variety of mental health issues that may play into sleep deprivation. Some of these include general anxiety disorder or depression.
Oftentimes, it is your lifestyle that may be to blame for sleep problems. Not being intentional about carving out enough time to properly rest is the biggest culprit. Other lifestyle factors that interfere with healthy sleep habits include stress, a poor diet or drinking too much caffeine or alcohol throughout the day.
How to Improve Your Sleep Patterns
The good news is that you are not powerless in your quest to establish healthy sleep patterns. Here are a few of the most effective ways that you can improve your sleep habits.
Avoid Sleep Deterrents
There is no shortage of things that can deter even the healthiest sleep habits. Caffeine, alcohol and daytime napping can also contribute to the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
Limit the Use of Electronic Devices
The blue light that emanates from electronic devices can substantially interfere with sleep patterns, as it disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms. For this reason, it is a good idea to limit the use of smartphones, laptops and tablets at least two hours prior to bedtime.
Create a Healthy Sleeping Environment
It may simply be that your sleeping environment is preventing you from getting a good night of rest. Be sure that your room is cool and comfortable and that you have bedding that is suited to your needs. Some people find success in creating better sleep patterns by investing in blackout shades or white noise machines.
Make Sleep a Priority
The number one thing that you can do to encourage better sleep patterns is to make it a priority in your life. This may mean giving up activities, consulting with a physician or keeping a sleep journal to get to the root of the problem.
As more is learned about the consequences of inadequate sleep on your ability to focus and concentrate, it becomes even more apparent that you should be intentional about making proper rest a top goal.