Looking after your health involves regular physical activity, a healthy diet, stopping smoking and controlling your alcohol intake. However, an additional factor that is often overlooked, but is increasingly considered by scientists to be important, is good sleep. It is well known that on average we need eight hours sleep every night, but many of us fail to reach even that minimum level of sleep, and the consequences for our health can be serious.
If you’ve ever had to wake up particularly early or had a few consecutive late nights, you know that groggy feeling that signals you aren’t at your best, and you will have experienced the loss of concentration, low mood or reduced energy levels that also go with sleep deprivation. But sleep debt is a serious problem that can even more pronounced health effects.
The immune system
Scientists have discovered that if you experience poor or interrupted sleep, your body’s immune system can be compromised making you more susceptible to a range of illnesses. If you’re one of those people who seem to catch every flu bug that goes around, it could be that lack of sleep is contributing to the problem.
Not getting enough sleep can leave us feeling grumpy and not at our best. In fact, everything can be too much effort when we lack sleep and we aren’t much fun to be around. So, you won’t be surprised to learn that if you regularly fail to get enough sleep, you increase your vulnerability to serious mental health problems including anxiety and depression.
Among the more surprising effects of sleep is its role in helping the body to control weight. Some studies have found that people who get fewer than seven hours sleep a day are at greater risk of developing obesity than others. There may be a number of factors that cause this, but scientists believe that two chemicals called leptin and ghrelin, are to blame. The role of leptin is to help you to feel full, and when you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t produce enough of it. Ghrelin is a chemical that increases hunger and levels of this chemical are more likely to be raised among people who don’t get enough sleep.
There is no doubt that diabetes is one of the most serious health problems in the US, and some studies show that those who get five or fewer hours sleep per night are at a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes than others. While the link between sleep and diabetes is not fully understood, it is possible that a lack of sleep affects the ability of the body to create glucose (which gives us energy) leading to insulin problems.
There are numerous studies that show that lack of sleep can have a negative effect on your sex drive. One research project found that men who develop the disorder known as sleep apnea are likely to have lower testosterone levels and a reduced libido.
One of the more serious effects of a lack of sleep can be an increased risk of heart disease, including hypertension, increased heart rate and an accumulation of chemicals that can contribute towards inflammation and diseases of the cardiovascular system. These effects combined can serve to put a strain on your heart, further increasing the risk of heart disease.
Getting a good night’s sleep
For people who may be struggling to get sufficient sleep, the good news is that you can change your sleep patterns, although it will take more than just one early night to make a difference in tackling the long-term consequences of sleep debt.
A good place to start is to update your bedroom furniture and accessories. There is a range of products available from mattress and bedroom accessory suppliers. It is therefore worth checking out what is obtainable so that you can make a comparison and choose the right sheets for your needs, whichever side of the tencel vs bamboo debate you are on!
By being pro-active and optimizing the tranquility of your bedroom environment, you can dramatically increase your chances of getting a proper night’s sleep, avoiding the negative effects of sleep loss. We all know what it is like to go without a good sleep. Hopefully this article will inspire you to take sleep seriously, for the sake of your wellbeing.