How Does Sleep Effect Your Health?
Sleep. We never feel as if we’re getting enough of it, and easily sacrifice it for late night tasks or early morning activities. It may not feel as if a lack of sleep directly effects your health, but studies show it could raise your risk for chronic health problems and effect everyday life.
Let’s look at physical health first. We’ll go from least to most scary, starting with sleep deprivations effect on your immune system. A lack of sleep could leave you unable to fight off infections, leaving you with that nasty cold that’s always going around for longer than normal. It is also linked to obesity because of the increase in the hormone gherlin that makes you feel hungrier than if you were well rested. Sleep is also instrumental in the healing and regeneration of cells, specifically for the heart and blood vessels. Without this reparative attention, your chances of heart disease in clouding heart attacks, high blood pressure and strokes. Insulin levels spike under sleep deprivation, increasing your chances of developing diabetes.
Now the emotional. Ever get overly upset when you’re hungry? The same type of logic works for sleep. Being cranky after a night or two of tossing and turning is normal, but long periods without rest will cause your brain to have difficulty making decisions, being emotionally rational or solving problems. Sleep deprivation can also lead to being less productive in the workplace, with a tired brain making more mistakes than usual. In addition to that, your body may start to microsleep, which is where you go into short periods of sleep throughout the day. These periods can be anywhere from 1-30 seconds in length and leave the microsleeper unconscious the whole time. Ever driven somewhere, but not remembered the trip? That’s microsleep, and it can be a sign of problems like sleep deprivation or sleep apnea.
Now that i’ve scared the pants off you and into bed, allow me to calm the fears that might now keep you awake at night. If you aren’t getting the 8 hour sleep you’ve always been told you need, don’t worry. Sleep expert Daniel Kripke has said in an interview that 6.5-7.5 hours is more reasonable as the ideal length of time sleeping, and a little more if you’re sick or recovering. Sleeping too much could be just as harmful as sleeping too little, so it’s best to listen to your body to determine when to sleep and when to get up.
Sleep experts recommend focusing on the quality of sleep rather than the quantity. Start going to bed when you’re tired, and getting up and out of bed when you’re not. This will trick your body into getting the sleep it needs when you spend less time being awake in bed. If you think sleep deprivation may be affecting your day to day life, try taking a few minutes to do The Great British Sleep Survey which breaks down habits and lifestyle factors to determine where you can improve your rest. Sleeping well means a healthy mind and healthy body, so make sure to snuggle up and get some Zzz’s tonight!