Sleep time is one of the most important parts of the day. Quality sleep can help you prevent mental and physical problems, improve your overall quality of life.
During sleep several areas of your body are busy, keeping the brain healthy as well as several other parts of the body.
Sleep deficiency has an impact on your health. Sleep deficiency raises your risk of chronic health problems. Your behavior, cognitive and social skills might also be affected.
Here are some facts on the impact sleep deprivation has on your health:
According to a research by Dr. Van Cauter, people who don’t sleep adequately have physiologic abnormalities that may increase hunger and calorie intake.
Insufficient sleep decreases the level of leptin a hormone that alerts the brain it has enough food.
Higher levels of ghrelin a biochemical that stimulates hunger are also present.
Poor sleep is associated with insulin secretion, insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose and promotes fat storage. The higher levels of insulin mean weight gain and diabetes risk.
People tend to confuse sleep and hunger, and eat when they are hungry, because fatigue is thought of as a sign of hunger.
Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells do not properly use the insulin. When insulin is not doing its job, high blood sugar levels build in the body to the point where they can harm the eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart.
According to Mark Mahowald, director of the Minnesota Regional sleep Disorders Center, there is evidence that links sleep deprivation and a pre-diabetic state.
“The body’s reaction to sleep can resemble insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes”
In insulin resistance, cells fail to use the hormone efficiently, resulting in high blood sugar.
The results of another research which involved sleep deprived subjects yields the following information:
When the sleep deprived subjects were feed a high carbohydrate breakfast their glucose levels stayed significantly higher than when they were well rested. Proving that their bodies were nor processing glucose well enough.
Impact on your brain
Sleep has several roles in your brain. Among them memory consolidation and muscle repair.
While sleeping the brain removes all the unused information inside the tissues and keeps the important information. Sleep replenishes hormones and repairs muscles.
Sleep-deprived brains are smaller in volume and have less brain cells. The healthiest brains are also the well-rested ones.
Researchers of the University of Pennsylvania, found that neurons living in the locus coeruleus region of the brain, when sleep deprived, steadily began to die. These neurons are involved in energy production for the entire body, hence why one feels lethargic after not sleeping well.
Scientists from the University of Oxford, found that people suffering from sleep deprivation often had cortical shrinkage when compared to people who sleep the proper amount of hours.
Scientists have found reduced metabolism and blood flow in multiple brain regions Reductions in blood flow and metabolism are linked to impaired cognitive function and behavior.
Heart diseases and lack of sleep
Even a single night of poor sleep, in people who have hypertension, can cause elevated blood pressure the following day.
One study which examined data from 3,000 adults, found that those who sleep fewer than six hours per night were more likely to have a stroke or heart attack, when compared to those who sleep 6 to 8 hours per night.
Sleep apnea, (Pauses in breathing while sleeping), prevents restful sleep, which leads to higher risks of high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure. Without long deep periods of rest certain chemicals are prevented from lowering the heart rate and blood pressure. This can lead to higher blood pressure and a greater chance of cardiovascular problems.
Certain disease fighting substances are created or released while sleeping. One’s body needs these hormones, proteins and chemicals in order to fight off infections and diseases. While sleeping the immune system produces protective cytokines (substances secreted by cells of the immune system) and antibodies.
Sleep deprivation means the immune system doesn’t have a chance to build up its forces.
How to sleep better
Keeping a schedule: Waking up and sleeping at the same time even on weekends, helps regulate one’s body clock and helps falling asleep and staying asleep for the night.
Practice a bedtime ritual: A relaxing routine before sleeping helps you psychologically separate your sleep time from your daily activities. This can be helpful particularly for stressful or anxious people.
Exercise: According to the National Sleep Foundation, moderate intensity exercise, reduced the time it took to fall asleep and increased the length of sleep of people compared to the day they did not exercise.
Evaluate your room: Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
Pay attention to what you eat and drink:Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet.
Avoid caffeine and nicotine: The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep.