There is nothing as disappointing as looking into the mirror in the morning and coming face to face with the hollows under your off-white bleary eyes. Sure, we live in a busy world and have been conditioned to believe that only scoundrels sleep before midnight. A party animal goes to sleep at 2am and wakes up at 7am to go to work.
Being a workaholic is lauded as the new form of heroism, equated to high performance.
A high performer goes to sleep at 11.30pm and wakes up at 4am.
But did you know that sleep is the magic bullet to a healthy lifestyle? The recommended eight hours of sleep are no joke because the amount of sleep you get dictates your energy levels.
With enough sleep, the body slows down and gets a chance do some repair and restore lost energy.
Slowing mental alertness
Patrick Tayebwa, a counselling psychologist with Serenity Centre Uganda, says on any given day, the brain thinks up and interprets about 1,000 thoughts. “During the day, the brain is in active mode, consuming, interpreting information, and regulating the thought process. During sleep, whereas the brain does not sleep, it relaxes, connects with the subconscious, and gets refreshed.”
Without enough sleep, the brain does not get to rest and this affects our actions. Sleepiness is not only manifested when you put your head on the desk to catch a 10-minute nap during the day. For people who work in factories doing repetitive work, sleeplessness contributes to a greater risk of sustaining occupational injuries.
Two months ago, Irene Mukisa boarded a passenger car from Kampala to Entebbe.
“The first part of the journey went smoothly,” she says, adding, “However, the loud music playing in the car puzzled me. It was a hot afternoon and a combination of the music and the heat sent the passengers to sleep. I became alert when I realised we were not moving in a straight line.”
As the car approached Bwebajja, it began moving out of its lane, into oncoming traffic. I looked at the driver and realised his head was resting on the head rest. His eyes were closed. Without thinking, I grabbed the steering wheel and swerved back to our lane. My quick actions saved our lives. The driver later told us he had been awake since 4am, driving from upcountry.”
Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drink driving. “Sleepiness makes our reaction time slower, especially when we are doing tasks that require quick reflexes,” Tayebwa says, continuing, “Without proper sleep, the brain is overworked and in intense mode and this exhaustion translates in slow responses of the body.”
At the end of the day, you do not want to be too stressed that you cannot enjoy your life. Tayebwa recommends that everyone should get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
Sleepiness increases stress
Today, there are many things that stress our lives, especially the need to make money and keep our relationships perfect. As such, if you are not careful, you can accumulate a lot of negative thoughts.
“Stress is an interpretation the brain forms when it cannot manage to deal with current circumstances,” Patrick Tayebwa, a counselling psychologist with Serenity Centre Uganda, says adding: “However, when we sleep, the brain overcomes its fears and even releases them through dreams. At this point, there are no negative thoughts. It is at that zero level that the brain gets a fresh start to deal with the same problems the next day.”
People who work night shifts rarely get enough sleep and as such, are at a high risk of stress.
Erina Namwange has worked at Entebbe International Airport for five years. “Every week, I work two days on the night shift. It is so hard to sleep during the day because I have to prepare meals for my children. In those two days, I only sleep for about five hours, I am always tired and I lose my temper easily.”
A sleepy person is an irritable person. A study published in the Cognitive Therapy and Research Journal in April 2015 found that high levels of repetitive negative thinking and obsessive-compulsive behaviour are associated with reduced sleep duration.