There are many factors that can influence our health, but one that we are becoming increasingly aware of is the importance of sleep. It varies with individuals but most of us need roughly eight hours of sleep every night if we are to function the following day, however, research has revealed thatup to a third of us aren’t getting enough quality sleep.
We all know the feeling of lethargy, irritability and low energy that comes with not getting enough sleep, and now that science is supporting the importance of getting a full night’s sleep, people are becoming increasingly aware of the options available for improving their sleep quality,such as weighing up the merits of Tencel vs. bamboo mattresses and doing their research to compare specs on the best sleep accessories.
Although many people are coming to understand that sleep is very important, it can still be surprising to discover just how many areas of our health can be affected in a negative way if we don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.
If you happen to be one of those individuals who have the bad luck to catch all the viruses, colds and flu bugs going around, it may be that lack of sleep is playing a part in your vulnerability. While you are sleeping, your immune system is being replenished and restored, but if you don’t give your system enough time to repair itself, you could leave yourself more vulnerable to a range of infections and viruses.
Another surprising effect of insufficient sleep is the increased risk of putting on weight. There are studies that show people who regularly have fewer than seven hours sleep are more likely to put on weight than others, andthey are more likely to be obese. One of the reasons for this has to do with two chemicals called ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, which promotes feelings of hunger, is present in higher quantities if you don’t get enough sleep, while leptin, which can help you to feel full is produced while you sleep. So, if you are struggling to keep your weight under control, it could be worth trying to improve the quality and duration of your sleep.
Declining mental health
Most of us have experienced those feelings of crankiness, lack of energy and irascibility associated with occasionally not getting enough sleep, but it turns out that the consequences of sleep deprivation on our mental health can be even more severe. There is evidence to show that a lack of sleep can increase your risk of experiencing significant mental health problems like anxiety and depression, and studies of mental health patients have found that a large proportion of them regularly got six or fewer hours sleep per night.
Lowered sex drive and fertility
It has also been discovered that lack of sleep can lead to significant negative effects on your libido and fertility. For example, men who suffer from sleep apnea – a disorder that causes interrupted sleep – are likely to have lowered levels of testosterone, which can in turn lead to reduced sex drive. In addition, many of the hormones essential to reproduction are produced while we sleep so a lack of sleep can also inhibit fertility in men and women.
Heart disease and diabetes
Heart disease and diabetes are two of the developed world’s most significant public health problems, and it has been found that lack of sleep can be a contributory factor in both. A failure to get enough sleep can interfere with the body’s natural production of glucose and can thereby play a role in the development of diabetes, while lack of sleep has been associated with increased heart rate, blood pressure and inflammation, all of which can increase an individual’s risk of succumbing to heart disease.
Tackling the problem
Getting more sleep is easier said than done, and it isn’t simply a matter of having a few early nights. In fact, it can take weeks to undo the effects of long-term sleep deprivation but it can be done. One method is to start at the weekend by going to bed when you feel tired and allow yourself to wake up naturally. And don’t drink too many caffeine-filled drinks during the day, as these can interfere with your natural sleep patterns.
The modern world is increasingly demanding and there are constant distractions pulling our attention in many different directions. But it is important to make sure that you don’t sacrifice your sleep, because the consequences for your health could be serious.