Wake Up to Sleep!
Modern-day living is impacting the duration and quality of our sleep and it is causing major repercussions to our health and wellbeing. So why is sleep so vital and what happens when we just don’t get the shut-eye we need?
A lot happens while we are asleep. The brain forms new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Sleep is also involved in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels. Deep sleep triggers the release of hormones that boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues. Without good quality sleep, we can become less productive and make more mistakes. Let’s take a look at the impact poor sleep has on our wellbeing:
Concentration, cognition, productivity and performance all suffer when you are sleep deprived. Research has shown that lack of sleep can affect aspects of brain function in a similar way to alcohol intoxication. Good quality sleep, on the other hand, can improve problem-solving skills and boost memory performance.
Sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risk factors, which can lead to chronic disease including heart disease. Studies show that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night have a much greater risk of heart disease or stroke. Poor sleep habits also affect blood sugar, which puts us at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. A small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function making us more vulnerable to infections and it causes inflammation and cell damage which puts us at higher risk of autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease or Crohn’s.
Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor quality sleep and sleeping disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea. Poor sleep is even associated with a higher risk of suicide.
Poor sleep and particularly short sleep duration is closely linked to increased weight gain. The disruption to hormone function as well as a lack of motivation to exercise and increased appetite are all associated with lack of sleep. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested. In fact not getting enough sleep is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity.
Lack of sleep can play havoc on your skin too. Your body boosts blood flow to the skin while you sleep so that you wake to a healthy, radiant glow. Too little sleep and your complexion can look dull and lifeless. Not to mention the dark circles under your eyes!
So how do we ensure a better night’s sleep? Life is busy but it’s important to get to bed at a reasonable time – no more burning the midnight oil! Turn off the devices well before bedtime – the blue hue can impact the brain’s ability to wind down. Have a regular bedtime schedule and try a relaxing pre-bedtime routine, which might include a warm bath with essential oils such as lavender or cedarwood. Take regular exercise and make sure your bedroom is a calm, comfortable environment to induce sleep.
Along with nutrition and exercise, sleep truly is one of the essential pillars of good health and our bodies simply cannot function at an optimal level without it. So, put sleep back on your list of priorities and wake up to a healthier, happier you!