I know, I know. Another post on why we need more sleep. But there’s a reason why sleep is such a hot topic. Good quality sleep is essential to our health and well-being for so many reasons. It increases our energy, strengthens our immune system, helps us focus and stay alert, and improves our mood.
An average adult should get 7-9 hours of sleep a night for optimal health. Like food, however, I believe that different people require different amounts of sleep. Some lucky peeps are totally fine with 5 hours of sleep. I, on the other hand, actually feel nauseous all day if I get less than 6. To see where you stand, I suggest experimenting with your sleep patterns to find out what works best for you and your individual needs.
There are so many negative effects of sleep deprivation, other than just feeling tired and run down. Here are just 5:
1. Weight gain. You satiety hormone, leptin, is reduced drastically when you don’t get enough sleep. Leptin plays a crucial role in appetite control, and you’ll have a difficult time suppressing your hunger while your appetite and cravings increase. At the same time, your metabolism slows down contributing further to weight gain.
2. Higher risk for illness. Lack of sleep means increase in stress. When your immune system isn’t functioning like it should, your insulin level drops which means inflammatory proteins and blood sugar levels rise. Long term, this will increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and infection.
3. Higher risk of injury. When the mental and physical states are exhausted, your tired state of mind is prone to injuries, errors, and accidents.
4. Negative changes in brain activity. Have you tried to problem solve or process new information after a night of zero to little sleep? It’s difficult. When you are sleep deprived, your mental performance suffers, impacting your overall mood, focus, and high-level cognitive function.
5. Struggle with emotions. Without resting properly, you’ll find that you have increased feelings of anxiety, irritability, anger, and sadness. It’s hard to keep your emotions in check, and you may even over-express emotions like laughing or crying regardless of the situation.
Now that you’ve been reminded of how lack of sleep can be detrimental for your health, here are some small changes you can make to your lifestyle to improve your sleep quality and keep it consistent.
- Maintain a consistent schedule
- Reduce your daily intake of caffeine, especially after 12pm
- Turn off all electronics 2 hours before bedtime
- Don’t go to bed on a full stomach
- Don’t go to bed on an empty stomach
- Use your bed only for sleep or sex
- Exercise regularly
- Limit beverage consumption before bedtime, especially alcohol
- Keep your bedroom dark, quite, and cool
- Invest in comfortable bedding
- Go to sleep and wake up using your internal clock, ideally with the sun
In such a busy connected world that we live in, the hardest thing for most of us may be to let go of our laptops, tablets, phones, or whatever you like to play with at the end of the day. I am guilty of this as well. These electronics emit artificial blue-spectrum lights, known to interfere with our circadian rhythms. If you simply can’t let go of them, I suggest you invest in amber-lensed goggles that can block out these blue lights. You can also download a program called f.lux on your computer, which adjusts the computer lights according to the time of day.
It is vital to your health that your body consistently gets high-quality, healing sleep it needs and deserves. Once you start prioritizing your slumber time, you will see positive changes in your body and mind. So please go heed my advice and make an effort to sleep yourself well.