Why Sleep is So Important
Not getting enough sleep each night can really have a negative impact on your health. A lot happens while we sleep! Read on to learn more!
While we sleep, our brains form new pathways and consolidate information from the day. Sleep helps maintain balanced hormone levels as well. Another thing occurring during sleep is the replenishing of our physical body (tissues, muscles, etc.). All of these things and more can be affected when we get inadequate amounts of sleep.
Some of the negative consequences of not sleeping enough:
- out of whack hunger and satiety hormones (leptin, ghrelin, and insulin)
- decreased attention span, alertness, concentration, productivity, and reaction time
- brain fog, drowsiness, and trouble problem solving
- weakened immune system (making it easier for you to get sick)
- higher risk for obesity and diabetes
- higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, depression, high blood pressure, and even stroke
- more likely to get angry or irritated, have mood swings, and act impulsively
- heightened levels of cortisol (our stress hormone)
How much sleep should we be getting? Experts say between 7 to 9 hours per night. If you are getting less, you may be missing out on important cycles of sleep and your body will probably be impaired. It’s time to talk to your doctor if you are regularly getting less than 6 hours of sleep or more than 10 hours of sleep per night.
Luckily there are some steps you can take to improve your sleep before seeking out help. Try a few of the following to see if they help at all:
- get off technology an hour before bedtime (this means no smartphone, television, computer, or tablet right before you go to sleep!); the blue light from these devices can impair production of melatonin
- take a look at your caffeine intake; some caffeine can last in your system for up to 8 hours; this means if you’re having an afternoon coffee to help you stay awake, you may be hindering your sleep at night
- study your food choices and their impact; keep a food journal for several days and record how you sleep (notice any patterns in certain foods or timing of eating that may be keeping you up at night)
- try a relaxing routine before bedtime; this could mean reading a book, taking a bath, listening to calming music, or doing some gentle yoga (this gives your brain and body time to slow down before trying to rest)
- diffuse essential oils, put a few drops on your pillow, or use them in your lotion; great oils for relaxing at bedtime include lavender, cedarwood, goldenrod, valerian, roman chamomile, and vetiver
- use light-blocking curtains and a sound machine; white noise can help some people fall asleep more easily, especially if your house or neighborhood has lots of busy sounds while you’re trying to sleep (a fan, air purifier, humidifier, or gentle music could also be used); blocking the light from your bedroom can also be very helpful, in particular if you live near bright street lights or have to sleep while it’s light outside
- create and maintain routine; this one can make such a huge difference; our bodies are wired for routine, they like waking up and going to bed at the same time each day; if you go to sleep at 10pm and wake at 6am, keep this routine on the weekend as well for a better routine
As you can see, not getting adequate sleep each week can really add up to some major health problems. There are many tips to try to get better sleep. Getting adequate sleep is not only great for your brain, but is vital to your overall physical health as well. People who regularly have a lack of sleep are more likely to be overweight and sick. Make it a higher priority in life to get great sleep and things will get better!
Have any questions? Feel free to email me or send me a message on social media. I’d love to chat more with you about sleep! If you feel you are consistently not getting enough sleep and your daily life is paying for it, please talk to your doctor, see a health coach, or try a sleep study at your local clinic! Best of luck and sweet dreams!