World Sleep Day: What happens to your body when you get too little sleep

Power naps should be 20 minutes or 90 minutes. Picture by Hamza Bounaim/Unsplash

Power naps should be 20 minutes or 90 minutes. Picture by Hamza Bounaim/Unsplash

Published Mar 17, 2023


World Sleep Day is a global awareness day intended to reduce the burden of sleep disorders through better prevention and management.

The theme for this world awareness day in 2023 is “Sleep Is Essential for Health” and it aims to make it fun, relevant, and practical for everyday habit change: More sleep, less stress and you can lose weight!

Poor sleeping habits are right up there with not eating nourishing foods, skipping exercise, and poor stress management.

Behavioural strategist and executive coach and strategic facilitator, Peddie Joni believe no one is exempt from poor sleeping, the vicious circle of unmanaged stress leads to people eating badly and/or drinking excessively, missing exercise, and then sleeping badly.

The following are a few fun facts Joni provides about why sleep is so important:

Our quality of life and health are significantly impacted by sleep. We need between seven and nine hours of good sleep every night for our body and brain to rest.

It’s not all about quantity, it is also about quality, in other words, restorative sleep. The most beneficial thing you can do for your general health, including the health of your body and brain, is to get this kind of deep, rejuvenating sleep.

Good quality sleep helps you think clearly and objectively, and make good daily decisions.

We often forget that "emotions are contagious" because humans are inherently emotional beings. A good night's sleep aids in managing and navigating your emotions.

When we get fewer than seven hours of sleep each night, we run the risk of losing our focus, having a weakened immune system, and overeating — often unhealthy food.

Our hormone balance is disrupted when we get too little sleep. Also, this can encourage us to overeat and put on weight. Obtaining adequate sleep can aid in your ability to withstand that extra serving of tempting food.

According to a scientific study, those who sleep for fewer than seven hours a day tend to eat more than those who get enough sleep, consuming an additional 1 255 kJ (300 calories) each day.

Helpful habits to adopt during the day:


Replace tea, coffee, or green tea with water or herbal tea when you get up because the brain flushes out toxins when you sleep and dehydrates to some extent. According to Joni, it is advisable to have your first cup of tea or coffee only two to three hours after waking.

Get some vitamin D within the first 30-60 minutes after waking

Natural light has a considerably larger effect on your brain. The best option would be to take a walk in the morning. Your biological clock's (circadian rhythm) daily reset will occur as a result. (Circadian rhythm, the name given to your body’s 24-hour internal clock, controls your body’s sleep-wake cycle.)

Elevate your heart rate for a minimum of 20 minutes every day

Activate your inner free spirit! If you don’t like exercise, reframe this as "moving" in your mind. Anything that gets your heart rate up works, so try some squats, jumping jacks, and planking. But keep in mind that you can break up 20 minutes into four 5-minute intervals throughout the day.

Avoid caffeine after lunch

Caffeine stays in your system for about eight hours. If you are going to bed at 10pm, then no tea, coffee, or green tea after 2pm! Caffeine prevents you from getting deep (stage 4) sleep — the stage of sleep that your body and brain need for all the detoxing efforts.

Eat a balanced diet

You need to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean meat. Vitamins and nutrients enable the body to function properly.

The power of a power nap

Power naps should be 20 minutes or 90 minutes. A 20 minute power nap during the workday is really helpful, especially after a demanding meeting, but avoid taking one too late in the day.

Tips to help you into the evening:

If possible, watch the sunset

Red light at sunset triggers your brain to manufacture the sleep hormone melatonin rather than cortisol, which induces stress.

Digital detox for 60-90 minutes before bedtime

Electronics emit blue light that can throw off the body’s system for inducing sleep.

No to nicotine

The use of nicotine stimulants near bedtime has been associated with difficulty falling asleep, unwanted awakenings, and reduced levels of restorative sleep.

Unwind after a long day

Allow your brain enough time to simmer down from the mentally demanding activities of the day.

Create a sleep-friendly bedroom.

Your bedroom should be cool and dark.

Your bedroom should only be used for sleeping, intimacy, and reading!

If you wake up in the middle of the night…

Instead of tossing and turning: get out of bed and go to the lounge. Don’t watch TV. Keep the lights low.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.