Remember being young and sleeping late so that you can talk on the phone? Or when staying out and partying with your friends was a great way to unwind. You would’ve ditched a night in than miss out, right? Now that we have grown older and have more responsibilities to accomplish, getting a full night’s sleep is the absolute fantasy everyone dreams about.
Yet, for some, getting that 8-hour slumber can be a challenge. It is the ‘ungettable’ get – a must have – but not everyone has that luxury. This is especially true for those who work the graveyard shift, the new parents, or the working mom or dad who needs to cut their sleep short to ready the kids for school. There will always be reasons why we can’t have the perfect snooze but we shouldn’t be getting used to that.
What Happens When You Lose Sleep?
Irritability or lack of focus are some of the effects of sleep deprivation but there are more serious health risks that can happen when we continue abusing our body. Here are a few examples of what might happen when you keep sacrificing sleep:
When there's sleep deprivation, there's migraine. This is a duo that you definitely do not want to get tangled in. Researchers who study pain from Missouri State University found that when rats were left without sufficient sleep, these rats displayed changes in the secretion of key proteins that can cause chronic pain. They have observed that insufficient sleep resulted to an increased expression of proteins p38 and PKA, which aid in controlling sensory response in facial nerves that are believed to contribute a major role in migraines also known as trigeminal nerves.
We don’t just get dark circles around our eyes when we lose sleep from working late nights. We disrupt the normal flow of substances inside us and therefore trigger pain. Migraines are never fun and can lead to a whole slew of health issues. If something as intuitive as getting more sleep can resolve such a painful condition, then its high time we start catching more Zs.
The link between lack of sleep and obesity have been highly correlated. And while correlation ≠ causation, these statistics do not lie. Dr Kristen Knutson from the University of Chicago gathered evidence to verify the connection between poor quality sleep and obesity. The observations show how signals from the part of the brain that control appetite regulation are affected by sleep restriction. Insufficient sleep results in the release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Resultantly, your appetite shoots up and this increases your food intake. With this growing body of research, it’s becoming salient that obesity isn’t just about stuffing your face with food or losing the drive to exercise.
Diabetes has been one of the leading causes of death in the world. Aside from food intake, family history and genes, lack of sleep can also lead to diabetes. Poor sleeping quality decreases insulin sensitivity. This causes our body to become more insulin resistant which, in turn, mandates that we require more insulin to regulate blood sugar. In the long run, this decreased sensitivity to insulin leads to a higher risk of developing Type II diabetes.
Tips on Catching Those Zs
Considering the health challenges mentioned above, how do we go about getting more sleep without compromising our lifestyles? Living in such a high caffeinated and digital world, we are currently in the middle of this sleep crisis. But fret not – if you feel like you are in a sleep debt, we have some tips for you!
1. Fix Your Bed Time
Like all kids, we set a bedtime for them. It is best that you follow a strict bedtime too. It is important that we get into the habit of sleeping well. Set a goal time that you want to be in bed in. Ideally, it should be around 10-11pm where your sleep hormone, melatonin, peaks. If you are a night owl, try cutting back an hour from your regular sleep time and work your way back from there!
2. Set The Mood
Set your room up into a sleep-friendly environment. A nice comfy bed, closed drapes, a few drops of lavender essential oils on your burner are a few ways to promote healthy sleeping atmosphere. The list does not stop here – find out what works for you and go with it. If you’re up for the challenge, leave your smartphones in another room and buy an ol’ fashioned trusty alarm clock to wake you up instead. Keeping technology away from your bedroom is a good way to remove distractions and wind down from a long day.
3. Decaffeinate Before Bed
Avoid caffeine-infused drinks a few hours before you hit the sack. Instead, indulge in a nice warm cup of chamomile tea. This type of tea is known for its sleep-inducing properties. Aside from being able to rest the night away, chamomile tea has a lot of health benefits to boot too!
4. Switch Up Your Eating Patterns
Having a big meal for dinner or getting up to have a midnight snack are the reasons why you’re not catching any Zs. Such an eating habit will prolong the digestion process which might obstruct a good night’s sleep. So for dinner, enjoy a light meal high in carbohydrates because food rich in carbs can trigger the release of serotonin which aids sleep.
Sleeping well is vital to our overall health. The moment we prioritise our rest, we prioritise our well-being. Once we get better at managing our time, getting a full night’s rest will no longer be elusive. It’s not enough that we have a great day, we should see to it that we have a great night too!