The unfortunate truth is most Americans, and mostly women, are not getting the right amount of sleep. Some use the lack of sleep like a badge of honor it validates their busy lives. Is this you? Are you giving up sleep to get that big project done at work? Is it your kid’s school project keeping you up? Maybe it’s just that when you put your head on the pillow your brain is on full chatter mode. You lay awake going over your day, thinking about conversations that could have gone different, or worried about what you need to do tomorrow, and end up worrying about not getting to sleep.
The average person needs 7 to 8 hours per night. Yes there are those who can get by with less, and those who do need more, but most of us fall in the 7 to 8 hour range. But how do you know if you are getting enough sleep?
- You don’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning;
- You can get through the day without feeling tired;
- You can sit through a lecture, or meeting without falling asleep;
- You can get through the day without getting irritable or distracted.
Not getting the right amount of sleep can lead to numerous problems. The most obvious is you move slower. You feel more stress. Your creativity is impacted. You cannot perform at your best. So you end up going through the day in a brain fog. Fatigue can impact your driving ability as much as alcohol can. One study showed those who had gone 17 to 19 hours without sleep functioned as if they had a blood alcohol level of .05%! Sleep deprivation can be deadly.
Lack of sleep can compromise your immune system. If your immune system is not functioning properly you get sick more often and can even lead to even more serious illnesses. Have you even gotten really sick and find all you want to do is sleep? Sleep is vital part of healing. Lack of sleep can lead to Insulin resistance, decreased libido and storing more body fat.
The quality of your sleep and the quality of your life go hand in hand. Which is why deep sleep (Delta, slow-wave sleep seen on a EEG) is so important. This is when the body goes into repair. Muscles, joints, bones heal, as well as skin and other connective tissue are repaired during deep sleep. Human growth hormone is synthesized. HGH is responsible for building muscle mass, strength and stamina. Many neurotransmitters are produced such as aceylcholine for memory and learning; dopamine for focus and serotonin and norepinephrin essential for well-being.
If you can’t seem to lose those unwanted pounds it could be due to sleep deprivation. Getting the right amount of sleep gets your hormones in order. Even one night of sleep deprivation can make those with Type 2 diabetes insulin resistant. 24 hours sleep deprivation can reduce glucose to the brain by 6%. To make up for that your body is going to do anything to get it back, which can lead to cravings for bagels, donuts, candy or high sugary drinks. Being sleep deprived makes it that much harder to lose weight. Leptin, the hormone responsible for your satiety or suppresses your appetite goes down. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone goes up. So you end up feeling more hungry, and feeling less satisfied, and according to a sleep study, more apt to reach for carbohydrates like cookies and candy. Not a good recipe for losing weight.
Get your beauty sleep. Research shows, and for some so does the mirror, a lack of restorative sleep has negative consequences for your skin. After a bad night’s sleep of tossing and turning do you wake up and see deep circles, puffy bags under your eyes, sallow or ashy skin? Unfortunately, as we get older our skin loses its ability to bounce back and when we are sleep deprived it becomes more difficult to get that healthy glow.
Here are a few helpful tips to improve your sleep.
- Research shows humans get the most beneficial sleep between the hours of 10pm and 2am when your body is at its regenerative phase. So if you get 8 hours, but it between 1 am and 9 am you’ve missed the most important aspect of sleep.
- Watch the caffeine. Consuming caffeine even 6 hours before bed can disrupt the quality of your sleep. If you want deep, restorative sleep, you need to limit the caffeine.
- Watch your screen time, no pun intended. Ending your late night binging on social media, YouTube, working on your Ipad or watching TV, impacts your sleep quantity and quality. No, not only because you are up late on your screens, but the blue light emitted from these devices can adversely impact overall health, alertness, and your circadian clock. Using the night shift option on your screens blocks out the blue light.
- Go natural. To avoid having to resort to prescriptions to help you sleep, try drinking chamomile tea, or kava kava tea. Using essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang applied to the soles of your feet, or in a diffuser can also help with falling and staying asleep.
- Keep it cool. Your bedroom should not be too hot nor too cold. The optimal room temp should be between 60 and 68 degrees. Any hotter or cooler can cause some difficulty sleeping.
If you want to be healthy, lose weight, improve energy, be more productive and less stressed sleep is the key.