Sleep is inarguably one of the most significant factors determining our health and well-being. Yet according to most statistics, roughly 50% of Americans don’t get the recommended 7-8 hours of nightly sleep they need.
The effects of sleep deprivation go far beyond just feeling tired the next day. Lack of sleep negatively affects one’s hormones, weight, digestion, mental health, and immune system, causing a host of problems for the body.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system becomes compromised, and you are more susceptible to illness. In turn, this hinders your energy, work, and social plans.
Inadequate sleep also causes us to hold onto and gain fat by suppressing the appetite-regulating and calorie-burning hormone Leptin. If that weren’t bad enough, lack of sleep increases levels of Ghrelin. This hormone tells your brain when you need to eat, when to stop burning calories and when to store energy as fat. Just one night of poor sleep quality causes Ghrelin to increase by 15%, which in turn makes us consume an additional 200-250 calories more per day.
Sleep deprivation has been found to increase levels of stress hormones and resistance to insulin Both contribute to weight gain, often leading to other health concerns.
As Matt discusses in his article on the subject, your circadian rhythm is the body’s 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. This master clock is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is a pair of cell populations packed with genes acting as the CEO, instructing the body to stay on schedule while taking cues from your environment.
The sleep-wake cycle is a pattern we all subconsciously follow. It helps govern brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, when to sleep, eat and be active, metabolism, immunity, cognition, and other biological activities. The rising and setting of the sun is still the primary influence of our circadian rhythm. To keep our bodies healthy, we need to live in sync with this rhythm and encourage the healing effects of sleep.
Blue light exposure from electronic screens like cell phones, tablets, and computers affects the sleep cycle by tricking the brain into thinking it’s daylight outside when used at night. In turn, this suppresses delta brainwaves, which normally induce sleep and the body’s natural induction of melatonin. If that wasn’t bad enough, blue light exposure boosts alpha brainwaves, which increase alertness, so that you think you aren’t tired and stay awake even more. Some people label themselves ‘night owls,’ but no one was designed to be nocturnal. Staying up at night will throw off the body’s cortisol schedule too, causing the adrenals to release cortisol at an unnatural time, increasing your stress and energy. Most surges of creativity, energy, and alertness are all hormone-induced feelings that are the side effects of staying up late and not getting enough rest.
Over time, the effects are tremendous for a population that already struggles with obesity, depression, anxiety, and diseases related to obesity and stress.
Many are on a continual roller coaster ride, not feeling energetic enough to exercise, eating more calories, not feeling sleepy at night, sleeping poorly, waking up unmotivated to workout. So the cycle continues.
If we get enough sleep every day, we can experience a multitude of positive effects. Benefits like better decision making and reasoning, more accurate problem solving, quicker reaction times, more positive attitudes, and increased alertness. Adequate sleep helps us handle stress, maintain a healthy weight, process and retain information, and generally makes us feel more peaceful and happy.
With all these excellent benefits and negative consequences for poor sleep, most still don’t make sleep a high priority. It might help to start thinking of quality, adequate sleep as a vital medicine or daily supplement. The saying is true; Reasons reap results. You have to associate the reason to get more sleep as highly beneficial and DO IT (the most important thing) to secure the results. Develop a daily routine that honors healthy sleep because a great day starts the night before.
Tips for good sleep:
-Build a routine around your bedtime and stick with it. Set one alarm that alerts you to put electronics away and start getting ready for bed with adequate time for your nightly routine. Set another alarm to remind you to get in bed (without your phone!) at least 30 minutes before you want to be asleep.
-Keep your electronics charging far from your bed to remove the temptation to reach for it.
-Make your room a sleep sanctuary; keep it tidy and beautiful and used primarily for rest. Make it dark and cool at night (62-70°)
-Use a white noise machine or fan to help drown out the other noises or if you’re uncomfortable with complete silence.
-Don’t skimp when it comes to purchasing a mattress, pillows, and bedding. After all, you spend 1/3 of your life sleeping.
-Reduce your caffeine intake during the day and especially in the afternoon.
-Exercise in the morning versus the evening as it might keep you awake