People are now sleeping less than they did in the past. Moreover, sleep quality decreased due to stress and all those smart devices. While it is normal to occasionally experience difficulties sleeping, ignoring sleep problems and disorders can damage your physical health and lead to weight gain, car accidents, impaired job performance, memory problems, and strained relationships.
Importance of Sleep
For most of us, sleep is usually something we do not think about so much – until we are sleep-deprived. Yet, quality sleep impacts our health and well-being in a variety of ways.
Consistent sleep plays a major role in maintaining a healthy metabolism. It affects our hormones, cravings and digestion. Not getting enough sleep throws appetite hormones out of balance as our inner remote control gets all messed up. Ghrelin levels that make us hungry go up whereas leptin levels that tell us we are full drop. This is because the body is attempting to regain the energy we lost with less sleep. Besides making us eat more, lack of sleep can make us crave calorically dense, sugary and fatty foods.
Moreover, the production of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) that helps us stay young and fit is highest during deep sleep. When released, HGH increases the rate that our cells burn fat. Therefore, lack of sleep makes us store more of that fat.
- Concentration and Productivity
While we sleep, our brains clear the waste that was built up during the day. Lack of sleep also damages the brain’s capacity for input, causing us to be drowsy and impairing our focus and memory. Moreover, lack of sleep makes our brain more prone to taking risks. Along with weakened cognitive abilities, it can threaten our safety, as well as of others.
- Physical Performance
Studies have shown that quality sleep enhances athletic performance. Longer sleep significantly improves the speed, accuracy, reaction times and coordination. Moreover, it provides us with more energy for high-intensity workouts.
- Glucose metabolism
Chronically skipping out on sleep has been found to lead to insulin resistance, one of the main factors that contributes to obesity in the United States. Insulin resistance is when insulin becomes less able to lower the level of blood glucose (blood sugar). When blood sugar level spikes, the body is unable to lower it back to normal level. This sets the stage for type 2 diabetes. Even one night of missed sleep can create a pre-diabetic state in an otherwise healthy person.
- Emotional Well being
Lack of sleep triggers negative mood swings. Sleep deprivation makes us more irritable, hostile and even makes us more susceptible to depression. Additionally, it damages our social relationships, lack of sleep can also limit our ability to enjoy positive experiences.
- Immune system
Sleep is when our body switches to ‘recovery’ mode. If we do not get adequate sleep, our defenses weaken, the body is more prone to inflammatory processes and we become more susceptible to viruses and bacteria.
Tips to increase sleep quality
- Set Your Inner Clock Straight with a Routine
Irregular sleep patterns can mess up our circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin – the hormone which signals the brain to sleep. It is called as the “Dracula of hormones” as it is produced during the night. It is another reason that you should avoid any sort of light in the evening as this can prevent its release. By looking at your smartphone before bed, you are tricking your brain into thinking it is still daylight. Avoid using it at least 1-2 hours before bedtime and try to go to bed at the same time each night. A consistent sleeping schedule could do wonders for long-term sleep quality.
- Invest in Thick Curtains
There’s more light pollution than ever. Streetlights, car headlights, and building lights eliminate the darkness that signals our bodies to sleep. Using curtains with light-blocking properties can easily solve this problem. Moreover, these curtains will not only block out external light but could also do wonders for your utility bill as they will provide your home with an additional level of insulation.
A reduced energy bill will also benefit your sleep quality indirectly. Our finances are the most common trigger of everyday stress and electricity accounts for the biggest share of our utility bills. When we are stressed, the body produces cortisol that makes us alert to increase our responsiveness. This is good for tackling life challenges but not for a peaceful sleep. While you are at it, look for more ways to save as you make your house more energy efficient. Look through gas companies in Georgia to see if another provider can offer you a better deal.
- Create a Pre-Sleep Ritual
We live in a world filled with self-help techniques and guidelines. Indulge in a soothing bath, put on a guided meditation from YouTube, drink a cup of a soothing tea, stretch or do a bedtime yoga sequence to signal your body it is time for sleep.
Chronic sleep disturbance can be a frustrating and debilitating experience as it will have you feeling dead-tired in the morning. Ignoring sleep disorders can damage your physical, mental and emotional health and even lead to accidents. If you want to feel your best, stay healthy and realize your potential, quality sleep needs to be your priority.