Time to nap it in the bud

Foggy. Wonky. Out of it. However you say it, I’m simply not functioning this morning*. I’m not distracted. I’m not bored. My mind feels dense – like a saturated sponge I just can’t wring out. I’m reading the same lines over and over but nothing is going in. Even my miracle-worker, coffee, can’t pull me out of this lull. What on earth should I do?


We seem to consider sleep a luxury, the quality kind reserved specially for the weekends, for rest days, for our teenage years. Well, I have good news and bad news; adequate sleep should be so much more than a weekend indulgence. Now I’m not saying that ‘catching up on sleep’ is suddenly a valid excuse for being late to work. BUT we should treat sleep in the same way we treat food…with the utmost importance!

On a cellular level, as we sleep our bodies repair and restores themselves. Therefore a lack of sleep limits us during the day both mentally and physically.

Insufficient sleep alters focus and inhibits learning and memory processes. Research suggests that when we sleep, memory consolidation occurs through the strengthening of neural connections. These then form our memories. If we don’t get enough sleep, it impedes our ability to develop any new information we acquire. Also, without adequate sleep, overworked neurons cannot function to coordinate information properly. This means we not only struggle to learn new things, but we also struggle to recall things we already know. (Suddenly the ‘dense’ feeling I experienced earlier is making more sense.)

We know that inadequate sleep slows our reaction time and hinders our decision-making abilities. Did you also know that it has a similar effect on the brain as drinking alcohol?

Sleep also plays a huge role in our physical well-being. Roger Federer gets 12 hours’ sleep a night. Yes, that is a little extreme, but many top athletes prioritise sleep so much more than the rest of us. That’s because sleep is crucial to healthy growth and development. Indeed, it is deep sleep that triggers the release of hormones needed to help build muscle mass and repair any cells and tissues damaged by fitness training. Whether you’re a casual gym-goer, a park runner, or an athlete, sleep is equally important.

Even if you care not for a focused mind-set, strong concentration, healthy growth, or sufficient muscle recovery, adequate sleep should still be a priority. That’s because sleep affects our attitude towards food. Yes, you read that correctly, FOOD. Sleep deprivation increases our ghrelin levels and decreases our leptin levels. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones; ghrelin makes you feel hungry, leptin makes you feel full. Simply put, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you tend to feel hungrier. If this isn’t an incentive to prioritise sleep then I don’t know what is. No one likes to be hangry.

So, there it is. Sleep is our refueller, our friend, our saviour. Who knew how much our bodies do while we’re getting a bit of shut-eye? Off for an early one tonight I think.

*Not really ‘this’ morning.