We all love sleep, don’t we? While it’s obvious that we all love the idea of staying in bed and sleeping as much as we can, did you know that most people consistently get less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night? Surprising, isn’t it?
Getting enough sleep is incredibly important for the overall health of your body and a lack of sleep can have serious effects. It’s also important to remember that as much as we like to think it will, catching up on sleep at the weekend won’t reverse the effects of a lack of sleep during the week! So let’s look at the reasons why getting enough sleep is so important.
Poor Sleep Can Lead To Weight Gain
Great. Not only does lack of sleep make you tired, it also makes you gain weight. Eye roooooll. Think about it; when you are feeling tired and exhausted, are you really motivated to do anything? Are you motivated to head to the gym for a workout or spend time cooking a nice healthy meal? The answer is probably no. The reality is that when we feel at our most tired, we look for a quick and easy pickup. Whether that’s a cup of coffee in the morning (or a couple of cups!), or some chocolate or crisps, we want something that will give us a burst of energy. Sounds good if you want immediate results to fight the tiredness. But a continued cycle of sleeping very little and reaching for comfort foods can lead to unwanted pounds piling on, and coupled with a lack of exercise, sets the stage for obesity and further loss of sleep.
Poor Sleep Can Increase The Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
You probably don’t know that sleep is essential to a healthy heart, but not getting enough sleep can greatly affect it. So getting quality sleep can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. This is because without long, deep periods of rest, certain chemicals are activated that keep the body from achieving extended periods where heart rate and blood pressure are lowered, which is necessary to keep your heart healthy. Lack of sleep means a higher risk of strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular diseases. So come on, think of your heart!
Poor Sleep Can Lead To Type 2 Diabetes
It’s hard to imagine that not sleeping enough can lead to type 2 diabetes, but studies have shown that sleep deprivation and insulin resistance may be linked. The main reason for this is that when you sleep less than you need, your hormone levels get thrown out of whack. This means that with ongoing sleep loss, less insulin is released into your body after you eat. At the same time, your body secretes more stress hormones which helps you stay awake and makes it harder for insulin to do its job effectively. This leads to too much glucose in the bloodstream, which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Poor Sleep Can Decrease Levels of Concentration and Productivity
If you’ve ever taken a school exam or had to do a big presentation at work, chances are you’ve been told to “get a good night’s sleep”. Sayings like this exist because we all know deep down just how important it is for our performance and productivity to get good quality sleep. The more tired we get, the more likely we are to make errors, procrastinate and feel generally sluggish. We’ll have less energy, feel less focused and creative, and have trouble making decisions and solving problems. Not to mention that sleep deprivation can lead to oversleeping which can make you late for work or even take a sick day for something you wouldn’t have if you had just slept better!
Poor Sleep Can Reduce Immune Function
It’s well documented that the immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as the common cold. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep. So really, your body needs to sleep to be able to fight off infectious diseases. Help yourself stay healthy and sleep better!
How To Improve Sleep Quality
Okay, so now you know why it’s so important to get enough sleep, but what can you do to help make sure that you are getting the amount of sleep your body needs?One of the main causes of sleep loss is caffeine. You’ve probably heard that before. But did you know that caffeine can stay in your body for up to six hours. So you don’t want to be drinking coffee before bed, it will only keep you awake. We know that sometimes life gives you a reason to need coffee in the afternoon, but if you can help it, try not to drink it after 2pm. This will give your body plenty of time to get rid of the caffeine and help you sleep more easily!
We live in a world full of electronics such as phones, tablets and televisions, and most of us tend to watch a movie or series right before bed, or even stay up late texting with a friend or lover. But staring at a screen right before bed isn’t a good idea, and here’s why. Most electronic devices give off what is known as a blue light. The blue light can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin and increase alertness, making it harder to go to sleep, causing you to feel more awake late at night. So you might think you are really tired, but if the light from your electronics makes your body feel more awake, you won’t be getting to sleep when you want to be. So why not read a book before bed. That’s guaranteed to help you relax better!
Another important thing is to not eat a big meal right before bed. We get it, sometimes you might get in late from work and you’ll be starving and want to eat a big dinner. But if you can help it, eat your dinner before 7pm. Eating late can increase the risk of heartburn, which is guaranteed to keep you awake through the night. And eating sugary snacks is not great at the best of times, least of all before bed time. But there are foods you could eat before bed that would aid sleep improvement. Foods such as almonds, turkey, and walnuts are good sources of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Chamomile tea is also great to drink before bed because it can help to promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia. Or why not try an essential oil diffuser with some lavender oil to help set you off? Both options are definitely worth trying if you want to improve the quality of your sleep!
It might seem impossible to get the recommended eight hours of sleep every night, and you might be persuaded to stay up late and make up that time at the weekend. But you now know it doesn’t quite work like that. You can’t always catch up with sleep at the weekend. What you need to do is try as much as you can to make sure you are getting between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night. Try it and we’re sure you will feel the difference.
There are so many adverse effects to not getting enough sleep, so why put your body through that? With small, simple changes, you can make a huge difference to the quality of your sleep. And when you sleep better, you’ll feel better.
We may take our sleep for granted sometimes, but remember, giving your body enough time to rest and recharge is one of the most important things you can do!
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