Sleep now sits right along side diet and exercise as the third pillar of good health
We have all experienced the fatigue or lack of focus that comes after a night of poor sleep. But what you may not realise is that lack of sleep—especially on a regular basis—is associated with long-term health consequences.
Some of these are:
Studies show that people who habitually sleep less than six hours per night are much more likely to have a higher than average body mass index (BMI) and that people who sleep eight hours have the lowest BMI.
Researchers have found that insufficient sleep may lead to type 2 diabetes by influencing the way the body processes glucose. A good night's sleep causes glucose to be processed more quickly.
Heart disease and high blood pressure
Studies have found that a single night of inadequate sleep in people who have existing hypertension can cause elevated blood pressure throughout the following day. This effect may begin to explain the correlation between poor sleep and cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Depression, anxiety and mental distress
A single, sleepless night can cause us to be irritable and moody the following day, it is therefore thought that chronic insufficient sleep may lead to long-term mood disorders. Chronic sleep issues have been correlated with depression, anxiety, and mental distress.
Ongoing lack of sleep changes the way your immune system works. It may not attack as quickly, and you could get sick more often. Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
Increased alcohol consumption
Studies have shown that alcohol use is more prevalent among people who sleep poorly. There are two likely reasons for this. First, alcohol acts as a mild sedative and is commonly used as a sleep aid. But the sedative quality of alcohol is only temporary and this leads to the second problem, which is that as alcohol is processed by the body over a few hours it begins to stimulate the parts of the brain that cause arousal, in many cases causing awakenings and sleep problems later in the night.
Decreased life expectancy
Considering the many potential adverse health effects of insufficient sleep, it is not surprising that poor sleep is associated with lower life expectancy. Data from three large cross-sectional epidemiological studies reveal that sleeping five hours or less per night increased mortality risk from all causes by roughly 15 percent.
Are you lacking sleep? Symptoms of sleep deprivation in adults include:
- Constant yawning
- The tendency to doze off when not active for a while; for example, when watching television
- Grogginess when waking in the morning
- Sleepy grogginess experienced all day long (sleep inertia)
- Poor concentration and mood changes (more irritable).
Sleep deprivation affects children in different ways to adults. Sleepy children tend to ‘speed up’ rather than slow down. Symptoms include:
- Moodiness and irritability
- Temper tantrums
The tendency to emotionally ‘explode’ at the slightest provocation
- Over-activity and hyperactive behaviour
- Daytime naps
- Grogginess when they wake up in the morning
- Reluctance to get out of bed in the morning
Here are 5 tips to improve your sleeping habits and thus your overall health:
1. Have a regular sleep pattern
Try to go to bed at around the same time every evening and get up at around the same time every morning. Improved sleep will not happen as soon as changes are made. But if good sleep habits are maintained, sleep will certainly get better. Spend the right amount of time in bed also. Most adults need about 7 to 9 hours sleep every night.
2. Bed is for sleeping, not entertainment
Your mind needs to be in the habit of knowing that if you are in bed, you are there to sleep.Hand-held electronic devices (e.g., smartphones) and other distractions can interfere with your sleep. It is better not to sleep with your TV or other devices on. Don’t stay in bed if you are wide awake.
3. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes
Alcohol may help you to get off to sleep, but will disrupt your sleep during the night. Caffeine (tea, coffee, cola drinks) and the nicotine in cigarettes are stimulants that can keep you awake.
4. Avoid daytime naps
Sleeping during the day will make it much more difficult to sleep well at night. If a nap is absolutely necessary, for example because of a late night, then limit this to about twenty minutes. Make sure that you are awake for at least 4 hours before going back to bed. Don’t allow yourself to fall asleep in front of the TV – not even for a minute.
5. Avoid sleeping pills
Except in exceptional circumstances - they do not fix the cause of your sleeping problem.
Natural supplements can be a great help to these healthy sleeping habits. Specifically, Metagenics' HPA Essentials, Neurocalm Sleep or magnesium are great products to use.
If you would like any further information please contact us here at the clinic.
Dr Jeremy Jose - Osteopath