Most would agree that Americans work too hard, relax too little, stress too much and don’t get adequate sleep. Most would also agree that this is an unhealthy lifestyle. However, most do not understand why sleep deprivation is such a “big deal” for the health of our bodies and emotions.
A study done by the Harvard Women’s Health Watch found that 75% of people have difficulty sleeping at least a few nights per week. They suggest that a short bout of insomnia is nothing to worry about; it is the chronic sleep loss that is of bigger concern. It can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, decreased immune system function and weight gain. The average amount of sleep suggested is eight hours, however, the normal range is between six to 10 hours.
We know you’re busy, so take a look at our “Cliff Notes” on the importance of getting enough sleep:
LEARNING and MEMORY
While we’re sleeping, the brain is working to transfer all new information to memory by creating new neuronal connections. So, if you learn something new before bed, you are more likely to remember and perform better later on.
METABOLISM and WEIGHT
This may sound strange, but sleep deprivation affects the way that our bodies store carbohydrates (energy and calories).
It also alters the levels of hormones in our bodies, which are produced during sleep, like energy levels, digestion, appetite and sex drive. Without exception, these hormone deficiencies can cause disease and lead to endocrine system disorders.
If we don’t get enough sleep at night, we may be more apt to “falling asleep at the wheel.”
Sleep loss often results in irritability, impatience, decreased concentration and more mood swings, all of which affects our lives and the people around us.
More severe insomnia has been linked to high blood pressure, increased stress hormones and an irregular heartbeat.
Sleep deprivation harms the immune system’s ability to function including, the body’s killer T cells which ward off disease.
Sleep is the time when the body grows, rejuvenates and builds muscle. The REM stage of sleep is associated with learning and creating new memories as well as most of the metabolic rebuilding that takes place in our bodies.
Now that you understand how important sleeping is, you may be wondering how to you ensure you get the right amount of shut-eye each night?
Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages late in the afternoon or evening can also affect our sleep cycles.
You may feel exhausted after you exercise at night, but in reality it actually revs up our bodies and makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
Try not to perform mental exercise or stressful activities such as studying, doing taxes, paperwork, etc. right before bed often leads to tossing and turning at night.
Environmental factors, like temperature, noise, light, loft of your pillow, size and firmness of your bed.
Try taking a few short minutes to yourself before you turn in for the night. Plug your phone in to he charger, leave it there and do five minutes of meditation, yoga or deep breathing (the challenge is to not pick up your phone until the morning). Clear your mind and prepare yourself to rest.
Make it a habit to wind-down at night, and soon your body will learn to recognize these cues by shutting your body down and a good night’s sleep will become habit, not just a fleeting dream.