I would dare to say that we are a nation of sleep-deprived people. When “team no sleep” is a trendy hashtag and short hours of sleep are being glorified as a means to becoming successful then there is a lot wrong with our society.
While you are sleeping regeneration occurs in your whole body, from tissue repair to muscle growth, from protein synthesis to growth hormone release just to name a few. A lack of sufficient sleep and/ or quality of sleep has a negative impact on your brain, your hormones, and your immune system. Getting enough sleep might be one of the most important things you can do for your health.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of US adults report that they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. We are artificially keeping our bodies awake with stimulants such as coffee or blue light from our computers/phones/tv at night and are wondering why we have trouble falling or staying asleep.
How much should you sleep?
First things first. Let’s talk about how much sleep you need to thrive. This will vary from one person to another and changes depending on your age and lifestyle factors such as stress. The general consensus is somewhere between 7-9 hours for healthy adults between the ages of 26 years and 64 years. For more information see the National Sleep Foundation’s latest recommendations. For people with a chronic disease such as an autoimmune disease, 7-9 hours may not be sufficient.
To determine what the right amount of sleep is for you, ask yourself the following questions:
- are you having a hard time getting up in the morning?
- do you need coffee or other sources of caffeine to make it through the day?
- do you feel sleepy and have low energy during the day?
- are you having trouble losing weight?
If you answered yes to any of the following questions then it is time to reevaluate your sleeping patterns and/or to add another hour or two to your sleeping hours.
Why you should prioritize sleep:
Although one might think that sleeping is “unproductive” it is vital for how your body is functioning and how you are feeling when you are awake. While you are sleeping, your body is actually very busy with “maintenance”. Below are 5 reasons why you should prioritize sleep.
1. Brain function and productivity
This point might be the most obvious one, as we all have experienced the effects of not getting enough sleep. Anything from being unable to focus properly to forgetfulness, are quite common side effects. Your mood can take a hit as well. Feeling irritable, cranky and unable to cope with stress are all symptoms of a lack of sleep. But on top of that your ability of problem-solving, creativity and innovative thinking might all be impaired. One study showed that fatigue-related productivity losses were estimated to cost the US up to 411 billion a year. So if you still think that being successful equals giving up sleep, think twice. A good night of sleep will improve your performance and productivity level.
2. Immune system
When you don’t get adequate sleep you are more susceptible to getting sick. But the immune systems ability to fight infections and pathogens are not the only thing that is impaired by a lack of sleep. This study shows that patients with a non-apnea sleep disorder (such as insomnia and sleep disturbance) were associated with a higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases.
3. Chronic diseases
Not getting enough sleep causes inflammation, raises blood pressure and LDL cholesterol and raises heart rate variables. Sleep deprivation or a lack of quality sleep also leads to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, which are precursors for type 2 diabetes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression are all linked to a lack of sleep.
When you are sleep deprived you make more errors and react slower. This poses an increased risk of accidents. A study shows that moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments equivalent to those of alcohol intoxication. According to the National Sleep Foundation 100,000 car crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers. Accidents and errors at work can have disastrous consequences. Investigators concluded that sleep deprivation played a significant role in the nuclear accident of Three Mile Island and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
5. Weight gain
If you are still not convinced maybe this last point will do. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep leads to alterations of hormones, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Evidence suggests that this not only applies to a lack of sleep but also the quality of sleep. So if you are struggling with weight gain or aren’t able to lose weight despite doing all the “right” things, a lack of sleep might be to blame.
As you can see not just the amount of sleep but also the quality is crucial for your health, wellbeing and your performance. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has declared insufficient sleep a ‘public health problem’. Sleep is not a luxury and is as important as a healthy diet and exercise. To find out what kind of steps you can take to improve your sleep, check out this 3 part series.