There has been much buzz recently about the need for sleep. Just look at the amount of ads on TV and online for drugs to help you to sleep. Perhaps this is because sleep deprivation, sleep apnea and insomnia are on the rise. Organizations have been created specifically to study this and provide guidance to assist those with these issues. Sleepfoundation.org is solely focused on this as is obvious by their name. Also, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has a section on their website dedicated to Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Their vision is “A world where everyone gets sufficient sleep”. According to the CDC, about 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. So, why is this a concern?
Let’s begin with 5 surprising ways lack of sleep is bad for your health.
1. Lack of Sleep Makes You Drunk
According to some research, lack of sleep is as bad as alcohol consumption as it relates to your reflexes and ability of critical thinking. Remember the Exxon Valdez tragedy? Consider the catastrophic results of dosing off behind the wheel while driving on the Interstate.
2. Lack of Sleep Dumbs You Down
Lack of sleep hurts the cognitive processes of thinking and learning. The various sleep cycles help in consolidating memories in the mind. Without enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you experienced and learned during the day.
3. Lack of Sleep Can Kill Your Sex Drive
Lower libidos and less interest in sex are reported to sleep specialists by men and women who are sleep-deprived. There was a study in the Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism that showed nearly half of men who suffered from severe sleep apnea also secreted abnormally low levels of testosterone during the night
4. Lack of Sleep May Increase Risk of Death
In 2007, British researchers studied more than 10,000 people over two decades. The results showed that those who had cut their sleep from seven to five hours per night nearly doubled their risk of death, in particular the risk of cardiovascular disease.
5. Lack of Sleep Makes You Fat
Leptin levels in your body drop when you don’t get enough sleep. Leptin makes you feel full. Lack of sleep also increases your levels of ghrelin, which makes you hungry. So if you don’t get enough sleep, you get hungrier and you don’t feel full when you eat. A recent study on teens showed that those with fewer than eight hours of sleep per night had a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 3.8-4.7% higher than those with at least eight hours of sleep.
Here are 5 things you can do tonight to help you to get a good night’s sleep:
1. Establish a regular sleep-wake schedule
The body gets a better quality snooze if you go to sleep and wake at the same time everyday, even on the weekends. If it’s hard in the morning, step outside and get some sunlight, you will be less likely to go back to bed.
2. Don’t eat or drink close to bedtime
But if you do need a snack, grab some tart cherries instead of warm milk. They have a high content of melatonin, which helps with sleep.
3. Avoid bright screens before bed
At least an hour before bed, don’t be on the computer or tablet. The light can suppress melatonin, the hormone that helps sleep.
4. Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only
As a society we have gotten in the habit of doing everything in bed. That sends the message to your brain that now is the time to read a book or study rather than go to sleep.
5. Cut out caffeine earlier
Five hours after your last sip of caffeine, half of it is still in your body. So it isn’t good enough to simply pass on coffee at dinner, you should stop it after lunch.
If you want to wake up naturally rested and relaxed, there’s an app for that. For IPhone users there is the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. More than onemillion people have purchased this app that measures your movements and stages of sleep. The tool knows when you are in the lightest stage of sleep and wakes you up with a quiet noise that gradually gets louder, so you wake up feeling rested not frazzled. We have not purchased this app, but thought it sounded interesting, so we wanted to share.
We hope you have many eight-hour restful nights so you can live a healthy, productive life.