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The Chronic Sleep Deprivation of the Hustle Generation

Your body is heavy as you lie wrapped in the grips of your doona, like a warm embrace. You can’t believe your ears as the screaming of your alarm pierces the silence. You’ve snoozed it through to the final seconds you could squeeze out with your head on the pillow. Your eyelids feel like sandpaper as they slide across your bloodshot eyes and the morning sun burns them like fire.

You think back to the night before and remember the extra hour of work at 7pm that took you through to 9:30pm. You recall the 5 more minutes scrolling through your Instagram feed that took 45 minutes. You flash back to the tossing and turning for 30 minutes while your mind wrestled with the to-dos of tomorrow and the wasted time of the day before. You don’t remember what time you fell asleep, but you know you didn’t get the recommended 8 hours. Maybe 5? 6 if you’re lucky, but definitely not 8.

You roll out of bed and stumble towards the coffee machine, waiting for the caffeine to kick in and drag you through the day. This is your morning routine.

You might not even notice your focus is not as sharp as even the day before, or that you’re more forgetful. The subtle shifts in mood, making you irritable and snappy at the slightest inconvenience might not draw your attention. The fact that you work longer hours, but you've been getting less and less done. You adopt these things as the way you, especially in the morning.

Or maybe you do notice, but you’d never connect these things with chronic sleep deprivation.

This story, your story, is the tale of the hustle the generation. The entrepreneurs, the free-lancers, the activists and the change makers. Opportunity doesn’t sleep so neither do you. The focus of the cohort is to build success in the non-traditional way. You want to work from home, run a side hustle, be our own boss, make more money, retire early. You want to be the fastest out the gate, the most successful, the richest and the youngest to get there. But you are also a socialite, going to every breakfast, dinner, party and boozy brunch to stay connected to your people, having family time, and alone time too. The smashed avo generation. You want it all. And you'll sacrifice everything to get there, including our health and majorly, our sleep.

Sleep is one of those things that is confusing to everyone. Even the leading researchers in the field of sleep don’t fully understand why we do it, and in fact, there are a number of theories.

Deep down, you know you’re not getting enough sleep… but you’re the exception, right? One of those people that can thrive off of less sleep… right? Wrong. While there are those rare people who see very few negative impacts of poor sleep thanks to a special gene they possess (known as DEC2), those people make up less than 1% of the population. You are almost definitely not in that small percentage. For the rest of us who do not have this gene, people who regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep are considered to be chronically sleep deprived.

And what’s worse? People consistently demonstrate they are not aware of chronic sleep deprivation, as they acclimatise to their low level of performance, alertness and energy. This means people spending years of their lives functioning in a suboptimal level mentally and physically, never maximising their potential… and having no idea what they are missing.

Sleep deprivation can negatively impact your life in so many areas. Decreased amounts of sleep mean you might have a slower reaction time, your concentration will be diminished, and you’ll be much less productive. It will also be much harder for you to reach any fitness or health goals. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body naturally holds more weight to try and protect you. You are also more likely to eat more and feel hungrier, because your body is craving energy. You also put yourself at much higher risk of numerous physical and mental illnesses. And the scariest thing? With every hour of sleep you miss, you could be shaving time off of your lifespan. So, by staying awake longer and sleeping less, you aren’t buying yourself time. You are stealing time from your future self.

So, you’re taking all of this in and your thinking to yourself “okay, I know I need to get my sleep under control, but how?”. Well, there are lots of little things you can shift in your daily lifestyle to make sure you’re getting your 8 hours every night. Here are my top 5 things you can try:

Start by building a sleep routine

Our bodies thrive on consistency and routine, so making sure you go to bed and get up at the same time every day will work wonders for your sleep. And yes, I know what you’re thinking, this means even on the weekends (where you can). Those 10 am Sunday morning sleep in’s might be nice, but you’re setting yourself up for a week of restless nights and bad sleep.

Avoid screens before bed

All our devices send out a blue light, which gets in the way of our bodies producing the hormones that help us sleep. This disrupts our whole sleep routine and throws our bodies out of whack. They can also be a distraction in our bedroom, meaning that we don’t sleep when we want to.

Exercise (but not too late)

Moving your body in some way for at least 30 minutes every day will mean you get a better quality of sleep. However, don’t do it too close to bedtime! Exercising in the 2 or 3 hours before can mean you raise your heart rate and amp up your nervous system, which is no good for sleeping.

Beds are for sleeping

Make sure you only use your bed for sleeping (and doing the naughty). Avoid things like studying or working in bed especially because our brains can start to associate bed with those things. This can mean our minds jump to work or study when we’re trying to sleep, which isn’t helpful.

Get your morning sun

We should all be striving for 30 minutes in the sun every day. One of the reasons for that is it’s good for our sleep and regulating our sleep patterns.

Sleep is often the forgotten puzzle piece in our picture of health. We can tick all the boxes for eating right, moving our bodies, practicing gratitude, setting goals… but without sleep it all falls apart. The impacts of sleep permeate every aspect of our health, and to be truly holistically healthy, we can’t ignore the evidence for spending more time in the sheets.

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