Sleep affects how we look, feel and perform on a daily basis, and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life. Common issues such as not enough hours in the day, stress, work, busy lifestyle, and too much stimulation can all contribute to lack of sleep and poor quality sleep on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, lack of sleep is hazardous to our health and can cause many health disorders. It is important to get plenty of restful sleep on a regular basis to improve mood, health and happiness. A good night of quality sleep unfortunately does not get the recognition it deserves and can be viewed as a luxury rather than a need. Interestingly we are getting on average 2 hours less per night then we did 60 years ago. Guess what? This needs to change!
Sleep deprivation is not only about how many hours you sleep but it’s also important to note that the quality is an important factor. How well you sleep and how deeply you sleep will also affect your health. ‘Slow wave sleep’ also called ‘deep sleep’ is where the body repairs the wear and tear of the day.
Tossing and turning throughout the night, repeated trips to the toilet, waking at the slightest noise, sleep apnoea and snoring are all tell-tale signs that your sleep is not what it should be. Snoring ultimately reduces the oxygen that gets to your brain and may increase the risk of other serious health issues.
Sleep disturbances can be caused from a variety of reasons:
- Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety
- Magnesium and other mineral deficiencies
- Excessive stimulation later in the evening
- Lack of natural sunlight exposure
- Lack of exercise
- Shift work
- Working long hours
Sleep is important for the renewal and repair of cells, muscles and all other body tissues. While we sleep, immense cellular healing occurs, memory cells re-organize and renew, hormone regulation occurs and energy levels are restored.
How does sleep affect our health?
- Depression and Mood Disorders
People who suffer with mood disorders are more likely to get shorter durations of adequate quality sleep. This is a terrible cycle, mood disorders contribute to sleep disturbances which then aggravates the mood disorder. Working on restful sleep can be a very healthy step forward to help reduce poor mood in combination with a healthy diet and exercise. Here’s more on foods to improve mood!
- Reduced Libido
This is largely reported in people who do not get adequate sleep. Lack of interest, tiredness, sleepiness and mood disorders that arise from lack of sleep will contribute to loss of libido and interest in sex. Lack of sleep reduces testosterone in men thus affecting drive.
- Appetite and Weight
Getting in good quality sleep is paramount in weight loss success. Sleep supports weight loss by reducing our cravings and helps to regulate our appetite hormones. Studies show that less than 7 hours per night increases appetite, cravings, stimulates fat making hormones such as insulin, suppresses leptin a hormone that tells the brain it’s had enough food and stimulates ghrelin which stimulates appetite.Due to these hormonal changes, cravings for high calorie foods are increased for that quick energy boost along with lack of satiety once eaten. Lack of sleep also contributes to fatigue and muscle lethargy affecting motivation and the ability to exercise. People who sleep less than 6 hours a day were almost 30% more likely to become obese than those who slept 7-9 hours and we can see why.
- Hormone Regulation
When we sleep we produce human growth hormone; this hormone is important for strong bones, muscle mass and healthy skin. Sleep is also important for the balanced production of many hormones such as cortisol (sleep deprivation stimulates the increased secretion of our stress hormone), alters our appetite control hormones and supports the production of our reproductive hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
- Memory and Cognition
Sleep deprivation reduces our ability for attention to detail, concentration, learning, problem solving and reasoning. It also suppresses memory recall, while we sleep our brains sort out the day’s learning and stores the day’s activity in our long-term memory; the learned information from the hippocampus transfers to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored, lack of sleep inhibits this process.
- Aging and Bad Skin
Looking tired with puffy eyes, dark circles combined with a poor complexion is not just from a few bad nights of sleep. It happens from lack of sleep over a longer period of time and will have you looking tired most days. Stress hormones are released when one is lacking in sleep and this will contribute to loss of skin elasticity, poor collagen growth and renewal and an unhealthy complexion.
- Poor Immunity
Lack of quality of sleep will disturb our ability to fight infections and produce adequate antibodies. This then leaves us more susceptible to colds, flus and other infections.
- Reduced Life Expectancy
Long-term sleep deprivation is associated with so many chronic related disease such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease which also directly affects mortality. A 2010 study by Britain’s University of Warwick found that getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night was linked to a dramatically increased risk of death.
- Cardiovascular Disease
Studies show that getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours sleep more than doubles your risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.