The Power of Sleep

Mar 10, 2020 | Healthy Living

Good ol’ sleep. Most of us can agree that we don’t get enough sleep at night. In fact a third of Americans are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each night. The amount of sleep a person should get is different for each age, but for adults, it’s important to get around 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep affects all aspects of your life and can influence your physical and mental health in many ways.

Sleep vs. the Mind and Body

Not getting the proper amount of sleep can actually affect your health. It’s been found that lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and depression. While you sleep, your body is able to regulate its blood sugar levels and metabolism. Lack of sleep messes up how your body metabolizes and can lead to weight gain. Because your body is not metabolizing properly, you’re not giving your body enough time to regulate its blood sugar, increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes. It has also been found that people with sleep apnea have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular problems. This disrupts your sleep patterns and interferes with how your cardiovascular system works. Sleep apnea can also affect your depression. Recent studies have shown that people who do not have sleep apnea, or their sleep apnea has been treated, have less depressive symptoms than people whose sleep apnea has not been treated. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to issues with your memory. Jeff Iliff found that when we sleep, our brain pushes fluid through the brains nooks and crannies, cleaning the built up protein that has accumulated during the day. When you do not get the right amount of sleep, your brain isn’t able to clean up all of this “waste” causing it to build up over time and as a result it can cause memory issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Immune System

No amount of Emergen-C can help your immune system the way sleep does. If you ask Matt Walker, Sleep is a Super Power. He found that your body produces cells call “Natural Killer Cells” that fight off tumors, bacteria and viruses. But if you are not getting the recommended amount of sleep, your “Natural Killer Cells” drop by 70%. He also found that even your genetic code can alter with sleep deprivation. It “turns off” your genes that help your body’s immune system and even increases the activity of your genes that produce long term chronic inflammation, stress, cardiovascular disease and tumors.

Driving Drowsy

Lack of sleep can also interfere with how you drive. Driving drowsy may not sound that serious but 1 in every 25 drivers over the age of 18 reported falling asleep at the wheel before. Driving drowsy can make you less alert, slow your reaction time and affect your ability to make decisions. In fact, lack of sleep can impair your ability to drive the same way as drinking and driving can.

Tips for Better Sleep

Don’t worry! There are plenty of tips that can help you fall and stay asleep.

  • Consistency is Key: Go to bed at the same time (or around the same time) each day, and get up around the same time as well, even on the weekends. I know that sounds hard but it will benefit you in the end and you’ll feel less tired.
  • Sleep Environment: Make sure your room is dark, quiet and relaxing and has a comfortable temperature. It’s good to invest in blackout curtains and a heater or fan, depending on the season.
  • Empty Tummy: Avoid eating (especially large meals), caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Physical Activity: Getting some type of physically activity, even just a few times a week, can really help improve your sleep patterns.
  • NO TECHNOLOGY: I know this one sounds hard. It’s so easy to scroll through Instagram while lying in bed, but this can mess with your internal clock. The blue light that your phone or tablet gives off can trick your brain into thinking it’s day time, making it harder to fall asleep. So try to remove all phones, tablets, TV’s and screens while you’re trying to sleep. It’s even best to go without screens for about an hour before you go to bed. This let’s your brain know it’s time to start winding down for the night.

But I Just Can’t Fall Asleep!

Do you adhere to most of these tips but you still can’t fall or stay asleep? Keep a journal about your sleeping habits. Log when you go to bed, when you fall asleep (the relative time), when you wake up, when you take naps, exercise, drink caffeine or drink alcohol. Then, talk to your primary care provider about what you’ve been experiencing and show them the patterns you have recorded. Sometimes there are other sleep disorders at play like sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy or restless leg syndrome (RLS).

Sleep helps us reboot and re-energize for the next day. It’s important to try to get the right amount of sleep each night. Remember, sleep is a necessity not a luxury.

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