By Fleur Chapman
Sleep – restorative, regenerative and essential to our overall health and wellbeing. Yet, when we get busy, it’s often the first thing we sacrifice. There are a number of important reasons why enough quality sleep each night is essential to everybody – so while you may feel like you are packing more into your day, ultimately, depriving your body of the sleep it needs will backfire.
Quality sleep is important for a number of reasons, not least our cognitive functioning during the day. We all know that feeling the day after a late night, when we are fuzzy, lack motivation and clarity, and just can’t seem to get anything done. It is the same for physical and athletic performance as well. A University of NSW study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/10984335) showed sleep deprivation to be equally detrimental to speed and accuracy as alcohol intoxication. After 17-19 hours without sleep, participants recorded test results as though they had a blood alcohol level of 0.05% – at which it is illegal in Australia to drive a car. Statistics aside, we all know we are a little slower when we are tired, we are less productive and motivation seems to float out the window.
Moderating body weight
Did you know, people who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to weight gain? The reasons for this is thought to be partly related to unregulated hormone production, and partly environmental factors such as less motivation to exercise. People who sleep less also tend to eat more, and unfortunately that is often sugary, salty and caffeine-filled options that have a compounding effect on poor quality sleep.
Protection from chronic illness
The other major reason sleep is so important is its protective function against developing chronic illnesses. A review by the University of Warwick (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21300732) on studies in the area of heart health and sleep, concluded that sleep duration is a significant predictor of cardiovascular outcomes. Put simply, not enough sleep raised risk factors of participants for a major cardiac event. Similarly, this study by the Boston University School of Medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15851636) showed impaired glucose tolerance (a precursor to developing diabetes) when subjects slept six hours or less per day. Inadequate sleep also dampens the immune system, leaving you vulnerable to any cough or cold that passes by.
Maintaining good mental health
Lastly, but certainly not least, is sleep duration and the link to mental health issues. One French study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16259539) estimated 90 percent of patients with depression complained about sleep quality. There is a little bit of the chicken-or-egg question here, but there is no doubt poor sleep and mental ill-health go hand in hand.
Don’t take sleep for granted and don’t deprive your body of the health-giving qualities sleep provides. There are simple ways to ensure you get enough rest, first and foremost by making sure you go to bed at a reasonable hour!
Other things to try may be:
- Stay off screens late at night
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening
- Exercise earlier in the day, rather than at night
- Try soothing oils, massage, baths or meditation to help you relax into quality rest
Your body will thank you.