Quality sleep is one of the most important aspects of ones health, and when a person is not sleeping well enough and long enough, negative side effects are sure to follow.
The negative consequences of even one night of missed sleep are vast, and affect several areas of one's health.
1. Mental/Emotional Implications
The consequences of poor sleep begin by affecting the central nervous system, by leaving the brain exhausted and slowing reaction time, causing difficulty thinking and concentrating. Because the brain forms connections and processes information while you sleep, both the long-term and short-term memory can be negatively impacted due to lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause emotional instability and mood swings, and can worsen existing depression and anxiety.
2. Increased Disease Risk
Lack of quality sleep impacts the immune system as a whole, due to a weakening of the immune system's ability to fight of pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria that can cause a the common cold, the flu, and many other illnesses. Because a lack of sleep causes more insulin to be produced to lower the heightened blood sugar levels caused by lack of sleep, there is also an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Heart disease risk factors increase, due to increased inflammation caused by lack of sleep.
3. Weight Gain / Hormone Health
Lack of sleep can cause weight gain, and eventually lead to obesity, due to the altering of the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, which cause an increase in hunger and a decrease in satiety. This can cause an overindulgence in fatty, rich, sugary filled foods and sabotage even the best efforts to eat a healthy diet. In addition to the increase of hunger hormones, there is also a decrease in the sex hormone testosterone, which can have many negative consequences, including reduced libido, reduced energy, and can also be attributed to an increase in fat storage and a reduction of lean muscle mass.
In addition to these main areas above, lack of sleep can also negatively affect a person's equilibrium, can worsen lung conditions, cause digestive upset, and simply negatively impact overall quality of life.
How can you identify if you are sleep deprived?
Common symptoms of sleep deprivation:
Inability to concentrate
3 Tips to Build Better Sleeping Habits
1. Go to Sleep Early
Going to sleep early, and around the same time every night, is a great way to create consistency in your sleeping schedule. Consistency in sleeping and waking can play a significant role in cultivating healthy sleeping habits. It is best to go to sleep before midnight, because the deep, restorative sleep that the body needs occurs during the first part of the night. This will help an individual feel more rested throughout the day, due to the way that the body's internal clock, called the circadian rhythm, works.
2. Aim to Reduce Stress
Reducing stress before bed can be accomplished in many ways. Taking a warm bath before bed, drinking caffeine free herbal tea, practicing yoga or stretching, breathing deeply, journaling, praying or meditating are all a great way to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce stress before bed. Choosing to read a book prior to falling asleep instead of spending time scrolling on a cell phone is a great way to reduce stress. Stopping caffeine consumption by noon, limiting, or avoiding, alcohol consumption before bed, and avoiding the blue light that comes from cell phones, computer screens and TV's at least an hour before bed are three key ways to assisting the body in getting a good nights sleep. Blue light prevents the sleep inducing hormone melatonin from being produced, so avoiding this sleep-disrupting light is crucial in getting quality sleep.
3. Prepare an Environment That Welcomes Sleep
By getting rid of clutter around your sleeping space, and by ensuring that there are no unnecessary, bright lights, a person can create an environment that welcomes peace and relaxation. Selecting a cooler temperature can also aid the body in the sleeping process, and help prevent a person from waking in the night due to overheating. Using white noise to block out any distracting or disturbing noises is a great way to maintain a distraction-free sleeping environment.