Find out how lack of sleep can raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes, mental health problems, infertility, obesity and …
Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is critical to our health, and when we don’t get enough, we sacrifice more than just a good night’s sleep.
One of the vital roles of sleep is to help us solidify and consolidate memories. As we go about our day, our brains take in an incredible amount of information. Rather than being directly logged and recorded, however, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored; and many of these steps happen while we sleep. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory—a process called “consolidation.”
Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Sleep requirements vary from person to person. While adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, one-year-olds need roughly 11 to 14 hours, school-age children between 9 and 11, and teenagers between 8 and 10. During these critical periods of growth and learning, younger people need a heavy dose of slumber for optimal development and alertness.
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
Good sleep allows your mind to regain focus and tackle those tricky mental challenges. It can also stimulate creativity. That’s because sleep plays a big part in both learning and memory.
Another thing that your brain does while you sleep is processing your emotions. Your mind needs this time in order to recognize and react the right way. Chronic lack of sleep can also raise the chance of having a mood disorder. People who have insomnia, are five times more likely to develop depression, and odds of anxiety or panic disorders are even greater.
While you sleep, your blood pressure goes down, giving your heart and blood vessels a bit of a rest. The less sleep you get, the longer your blood pressure stays up during a 24-hour cycle. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, including stroke.
Short-term downtime can have long-term payoffs.
Boosted Energy Levels
Energy levels after healthy sleep are higher, and your mental awareness is more acute. Good sleep is also tied to improved athletic performance, including greater speed, agility and reflexes. Sleep loss will not deprive you of energy and time for muscle repair, lack of sleep saps your motivation, which is what gets you to the finish line. You’ll face a harder mental and physical challenge — and see slower reaction times.
Steadier Blood Sugar
During the deep, slow-wave part of your sleep cycle, the amount of glucose in your blood drops. Not enough time in this deepest stage means you don’t get that break to allow a reset — like leaving the volume turned up. Your body will have a harder time responding to your cells’ needs and blood sugar levels.
Sleep is your body’s mechanism to ward off infection. When you don’t get enough, your immune system is weaker, making you more susceptible to illness. Ongoing lack of sleep changes the way your immune cells work. They may not attack as quickly, and you could get sick more often.
When you’re well-rested, you’re less hungry. Being sleep-deprived messes with the hormones in your brain — leptin and ghrelin — that control appetite.
With those out of balance, your resistance to the temptation of unhealthy foods goes way down. And when you’re tired, you’re less likely to want to get up and move your body. Together, it’s a recipe for putting on pounds.
Don’t Fall into these Sleep Traps!
#1: Getting just 1 hour less per night than you need doesn’t affect your daytime functioning.
While you may not feel noticeably sleepier during the day, even losing an hour of sleep can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly.
#2: You can make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on weekends.
Making up for sleep on the weekends by sleeping in and/or napping only partially erases the insufficiencies associated with not sleeping enough the previous week.
#3: Extra sleep for one night can cure all your problems with daytime fatigue.
Quality and timing of sleep are just as important as quantity when it comes to healthy rest. Some people sleep a full nine hours a night but don’t feel well-rested when they wake up because of the poor quality of sleep.
#4: You can pay back to sleep deprivation by logging into sleep debt
Unfortunately, a person can’t just accumulate sleep deprivation and then log many hours of sleep to make up for it. The best sleep habits are consistent, healthy routines that allow all of us, regardless of our age, to meet our sleep needs every night, and keep on top of life’s challenges every day.
Practising good sleep hygiene, as well as not falling into the sleep traps listed above, can reverse many cases of sleep deficiency. However, if you (or a loved one) think you may be suffering from sleep deprivation caused by a sleep disorder or another sleep condition, ask your nutritionist for a sleep diet & lifestyle consultation to achieve healthier sleep and improved quality of life.
Read our guide How to fix Insomnia for more information and tips on getting a good night’s sleep.
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar