Do you feel tired and worn out during the day? Or irritable lately? Perhaps it is time you have a look at your sleeping habits.
How well you feel during the day is a direct result of how well you slept the past night. Quality sleep is essential for sound mental health, physical wellbeing, and good quality of life. This is because while we sleep, our body is at work supporting healthy brain function and carry out maintenance to ensure our physical wellbeing. In fact, sleep promotes growth and development in children.
What happens if you do not get the required amount of sleep? Well, the harm sleep deprivation does can occur in an instant (like in a car accident) or it may lead to more chronic health issues. It can also have an impact on your day-to-day functioning and social interactions.
Let’s take a look at how a good night’s sleep affects our physical, mental, and emotional health:
A healthy brain and sound emotions
While you sleep, your brain recuperates from the previous day’s activities and prepares for the next day. New pathways are being formed to help you gather and store new information during the day. Studies show that a good night’s rest is linked to improved learning. Sleep enhances your ability to pay attention, learn new skills, solve problems, make decisions and be creative.
You will not be able to do the above activities well in a sleep-deficient state. Sleep deficiency also creates problems in managing emotions and behavior, and is linked to risk-taking behavior, depression, and even suicide. Children who are sleep deprived often face social problems like getting along with others and emotional issues that make them impulsive and angry.
Good physical health
Sleep allows repair and healing of your heart and blood vessels. In absence of a good night’s rest, your chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney issues, stroke and diabetes increase. By affecting how your body reacts to insulin, sleep deficiency can put you at a risk of diabetes.
Sleep is also responsible for maintaining the balance of hormones ghrelin (makes you feel hungry) and leptin (gives a feeling of fullness) that control hunger. A lack of sleep raises the levels of ghrelin and reduces leptin, making you feel hungry. Over time, sleep deficiency can increase your risk towards obesity.
Lastly, good sleep is essential for the normal functioning of the immune system. A lack of sleep can affect how the immune system responds to infections and foreign bodies.
Normal daytime productivity and safety
A good night’s sleep allows you to function properly at work or school. In a sleep-deprived state, tasks may take longer to finish as reaction times decrease and mistakes become more common.
A lack of sleep can lead to a condition known as microsleep, which are brief moments of sleep that may occur while you are fully awake; you might not even be aware of it. This can affect your productivity and also question your safety, say while driving. Decreased productivity in performing various tasks and a lack of attention can lead to human errors while on the job, at home, or while travelling.
Steps to ensure quality sleep
While you might not be able to control all factors that hinder sleep, you can make certain changes in your routine that will promote better sleep. You can start with these simple steps:
Create a sleep schedule and follow it
Have a set time when you go to bed every night and wake up the next day, as it creates a consistent sleep-wake cycle for the body and ensures proper sleep.
Pay attention to your diet
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine near sleep time. The stimulating effects of caffeine and nicotine can take hours before they wear off. Alcohol will initially make you feel sleepy, but disrupts sleep later in the night. It helps to not fall asleep either stuffed or hungry.
Regulate your activities around sleep time (create a bedtime ritual)
Relaxing activities like reading a book, listening to soothing music or a warm bath promote better sleep. Avoid using TV or other electronic devices near bedtime.
Include physical activity during the day
Being physically active can help falling asleep faster and achieving a deeper sleep. However, exercising too close to bedtime can spike up energy levels and cause difficulty in falling asleep.
Limit naps in daytime
If you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep or have insomnia, limit daytime naps to 10 to 30 minutes. Longer daytime naps can interfere with sleep later at night.
Stressful thoughts can affect sleep. Take steps to manage stress, like listing task priorities, getting organized, and taking time to de-stress through fun activities once a while. An occasional sleepless night can be normal, but if you are having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, do contact a doctor!
“For good health, make sleep a priority,” MayoClinic.com, Mayo Clinic Health Letter, Lois E. Krahn, M.D., http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/editorial/editorial.cfm/i/315/t/forgoodhealth,makesleepapriority/
“Sleep tips: 7 steps to better sleep,” MayoClinic.com, Mayo Clinic Staff, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379?pg=1
“The Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep,” WebMD.com, http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-benefits-10/healing-power-sleep?page=2
“Why Is Sleep Important?” NHLBI.NIH.gov, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why.html