5 Reasons You Should Make Getting Enough Sleep a Priority
A lack of sleep is linked to many adverse health and life events. Are you getting the required 7-9 hours per night (for adults)? If you aren’t, you are not alone - one in three of us don’t get enough. Here are some reasons to make getting enough quality sleep a priority, and some tips on how to do it.
1 – Lack of sleep can increase your chances of being overweight.
When you are sleep-deprived, a hormone that stimulates your appetite (ghrelin) spikes, and a hormone that decreases your appetite (leptin) decreases. There’s also an increase in a lipid that makes you enjoy eating (endocannabinoid) and increases your hunger for junk food like cookies and chips. So, all this imbalance can make you feel hungrier, and make you crave more carbs and junk food. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “people who don’t get enough sleep eat twice as much fat and more than 300 extra calories the next day, compared with those who sleep for eight hours.”
2 – A lack of sleep contributes to chronic disease, in particular heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The Center for Disease Control reports that “hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease and irregular heartbeats have been found to be more common among those with disordered sleep than their peers without sleep abnormalities.” Sleep appears to be important for repairing of your heart and blood vessels. There is also a link between sleep apnea and heart disease making sleep apnea a possible predictor of heart disease.
Related to type 2 diabetes, as you continue to not get enough sleep, less insulin is released after you eat. At the same time, your body secretes more hormones that help you stay awake but also reduce insulin’s effectiveness. This causes too much glucose in the bloodstream, which poses a risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Recent studies suggest that improving sleep duration and quality may be important ways of improving blood sugar.
3 - Inadequate sleep impairs your ability to think.
Sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain, so if you don’t get enough, you may have trouble making decisions and solving problems. Also, your brain needs sleep in order to process your memories from the day. (Experts call this “consolidation.”) So, if you are sleep-deprived you are apt to have memory issues too.
Furthermore, being drowsy increases your likelihood of being in a car or industrial accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that in 2015, 90,000 police-reported crashes involved drowsy drivers, which led to about 41,000 people being injured and more than 800 deaths. Workers with sleep problems are almost twice as likely to have work injuries than workers who get adequate sleep. And about 13% of work injuries are the result of sleep problems.
Being sleep-deprived also affects your productivity in general. When you are tired, it will take you longer to finish tasks, you will have a slower reaction time, and you will make more mistakes than people who are getting adequate sleep.
4 – Sleep affects your psychological well-being.
There is a link between sleep deficiency and depression - sometimes sleep problems can cause depression and sometimes depression can cause sleep problems. Evidence suggests that individuals with insomnia are 10 times more likely to develop depressive and anxiety disorders than individuals without insomnia. Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety or depression - and if you are like me - not getting enough sleep can just flat out make you CRANKY!
5 – Lack of sleep can compromise your immune system.
Your immune system needs sleep in order to produce and release cytokines, hormones that aid the immune system in fighting infections. So if you aren’t getting enough zzzzz’s, you may have a reduced ability to fight off some common infections [p. 20] like colds.
Tips for Getting More, and Better Sleep
First, consider if there is a medical or physiological issue.
There are several key sleep disorders including insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. Some medications (such as decongestants, steroids, and beta blockers) cause sleep disruptions.
Some physical conditions (such as arthritis, congestive heart failure, sickle cell anemia, or asthma) can disrupt sleep, too. And for women, menstrual cycle hormones can affect sleep. Also, a number of psychological disorders (such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders) are known for disrupting sleep. The National Institutes of Health has an excellent publication discussing factors that affect your sleep and ways to improve it.
You should consult with your doctor to rule out any medical or physiological cause for poor quality or quantity of sleep.
For many people, lack of sleep is due to stress or long hours with work and family responsibilities. There are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep health, and it starts with your sleep hygiene (the habits you have around sleeping). These generally fall into 3 categories: routine, environment, and well-being.
· Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same times each day, even on the weekends.
· Have a set prep routine before going to bed.
· Make your sleep-space (bedroom) quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature.
· Ensure your bed is comfortable (good mattress, comfortable pillows, soft linens, etc.)
· Remove electronic devices (TVs, computers, cell phones) from your sleep-space.
· Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
· Avoid tobacco/nicotine.
· Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
· Try to calm your busy mind.
· Seek medical attention for any underlying issues interrupting your sleep (sleep disorders, pain, allergies, etc.)
Sleep isn't a luxury - it is an imperative. If you aren't getting enough quality sleep, you should consider timing the time and effort to figure out why, then try different things to improve it. It will improve your quality of life!