Ever notice that you tend to feel energized and drowsy around the same times every day? There’s a reason for that, many of us are out of sync with our internal clocks and our circadian rhythm has been disturbed. Indeed, we are a sleep-deprived world, and the health effects can be both surprising and significant. In fact, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has called insufficient sleep a public health problem, states that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. While individual sleep needs vary most individual need 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Unfortunately, most of us do not achieve this regularly. The average American currently averages 6.8 hours of sleep at night, down more than an hour from 1942, and trying to play “catch up” on the weekend doesn’t work.
You need to establish a regular routine with a consistent time for going to sleep and the same for waking up. This way, your body will naturally regulate itself to fit into your best circadian rhythm. Ignoring your body’s need for sleep has many consequences on our mind and body. Here are some of the most significant.
During sleep the brain rests and recharges its pathways. Growth hormones are released during sleep and proteins that help repair cell damage are produced. Sleep is the brains “detox” time. Lack of sufficient or deep sleep disrupts this healing process leaving you groggy and unfocused the next day.
It takes you longer to recover from illness if you are sleep deprived. You will be less able to fight off infections if you are physically exhausted.
Lack of sleep causes you to become more prone to flu and colds and chronic respiratory illnesses become more severe.
Hormones that regulate hunger and satiety are produced during sleep. Leptin, which tells your body you are full gets down regulated and the levels of ghrelin increase leaving you with increased appetite and sweet cravings. You are not imagining that you crave more junk food after a bad night’s sleep, it is an actual physiological response! It has been proven that shift workers suffer from higher rates of obesity than the general population, which is among some other things also attributed to a lack of sleep.
Sleep plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair your blood vessels and heart. Sleep deprivation can lead to higher risk of chronic health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. According to a recent Harvard study for people with hypertension, one night without enough sleep can cause elevated blood pressure all through the next day.
A lack of sleep not only affects your physical health, it has a significant impact on your mental health as well. When you don’t get the enough quality sleep, it can heavily influence your outlook on life, energy level, motivation, and emotions.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekend. This will help your body regulate its internal clock and you will be able to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Blue light emission from screens interrupt the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps your body fall asleep naturally.
Exercise helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, so you need to get some form of it every day. Time it properly, some people have trouble falling asleep if they exercise late in the day. If this is a problem for you, try switching to morning workouts.
Even though both can be tempting to make you feel energized or to wind down after a long day, both disrupt sleep patterns. It is best to cut off caffeine consumption by 3PM to avoid being over stimulated at bedtime and limit alcohol to special occasions so you can enjoy uninterrupted sleep.
As tempting as it may feel to take a daytime nap when you are exhausted from lack of sleep, studies show that long naps make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. If you do nap during the day, limit the nap to 15-30 minutes.
Both will disrupt your sleep. Hunger is a strong signal of survival that may keep you awake long into the night. Being overly stuffed will cause you to toss and turn and diminish the quality of your sleep.
Winding down with a regular routine before your set bedtime can be very beneficial. This would be a time to distress and enjoy some quiet time, perhaps enjoying a warm shower, an enjoyable book, or listening to some soft music. Make this time “screen free” though. We already know what blue light emissions can do to your sleep. If you are stressed or worried, write down your concerns, and then resolve not to think about them again until the morning.
This usually means cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a good bed with comfortable bedding and make sure you have enough room if you share a bed. Consider using room darkening shades and earplugs to get a good night’s sleep. If you share your bed with children or pets, you need to remove them. Your bed is not the place for anything other than sleep and intimacy.
Now is the time to re-examine and improve your sleep habits to reap all the benefits of a healthy amount of sleep and wake up each day feeling energized and refreshed.