Sleep is a vital part of health and wellness, but it is also something that seems to keep slipping from our increasingly busy lives. Getting enough good quality sleep is important in allowing the body to grow and recover from daily stressors as well as illness and disease. Chronic lack of sleep can lead to more than just fatigue during the day. It may be the root cause of a number of issues, including the following:
1. Brain: Sleep is when your brain rests its neurons and strengthens newly formed neural pathways. Without adequate sleep, your brain becomes exhausted. You will feel sleepy, or have trouble concentrating during work or school. Lack of sleep can also put you at increased risk for mood swings, depression and impulsive (and possibly) risky decision-making. Your alertness can also be affected, putting yourself and others at risk if you are driving or operating heavy machinery.
2. Immune System: During sleep is an optimal time for your body to produce antibodies and other cells that can fight infections. If your body is not given enough time to do this, your immune response will be weakened and you may be more susceptible to infection or illness. Also, without enough sleep, it is likely that an illness or infection might take longer to be eradicated from your system.
3. Digestive System: Lack of sleep causes various hormones to be released in non-optimal quantities. For example, if your body is sleep deprived, it will release an increased amount of Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite. It will also release a decreased amount of Leptin, which is the hormone that tells your brain you are full. So, you now feel more hungry, but also don't feel full with the same amount of food that would normally be enough for you. Lack of sleep can also cause your body to crave simple carbohydrates: sugars and processed bread products. These foods provide your body with a quick burst of energy it feels it needs when you are sleep-deprived.
4. Cardiovascular System: In addition to the above digestive hormones, your body will also release elevated amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol when you have not gotten enough quality sleep. An increase in cortisol can cause added stress to the cardiovascular system, resulting in hypertension or high blood pressure, and increasing the risk of heart disease and even stroke.
So, there are multiple issues that can occur with sleep deprivation, but not everyone has an easy time falling and staying asleep. Here are some tips to help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer:
1. Don't take long naps too late in the afternoon.
2. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine too close to bed time.
3. Save high intensity exercise for the morning or early afternoon. Gentle yoga or similar exercises may be beneficial closer to bed time to help you relax. A regular exercise schedule can help regulate your sleep quality.
4. Avoid large meals too close to bed time.
5. Avoid blue light from phone, computer or tablet screens one hour before bed time. If you must look at your screens, you can download a blue light filter such as f.lux to help decrease the effects of blue light on your sleep schedule, or use the night mode setting.
6. Use your bed for sleep. Try to avoid doing work in bed if at all possible.
7. If you're still having trouble sleeping, try massage therapy or physiotherapy to uncover underlying causes of aches and pains that may be aggravated by your sleep position.