Christina Carreau BA, ND
We all know the value of sleeping well. Everyone has experienced the effects of a good nights sleep versus a restless night, and the impact that can have on our energy levels, mood and motivation the following day.
With the increased busyness of our lives, more of us are getting to bed too late, waking up too early or just not able to maintain a restful sleep pattern. The impacts of poor sleep are significant, in that they can have detrimental effects on our health both immediate and long-term.
If you are not getting 8 hours of sleep consistently then you have a greater risk of suffering from the following:
• Weight Gain – Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on hormone balance which can predispose us to gaining weight. We are also less likely to exercise when we lack proper sleep. Over time, both of these factors can pack on pounds.
• Inflammation – Studies show that poor sleep is strongly linked to inflammatory bowel disease and other inflammatory conditions. Sleep is a time when the body does its repair work. Without being given that time to heal, inflammation can go unchecked.
• Insulin Resistance – Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on blood sugar regulation which predisposes us to both insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. When we are tired and looking to boost energy levels, we often opt for carbs – cookies, muffins, bagels, etc., all of which can exacerbate the blood sugar issue.
• Weakened Immune Function – Studies show that those who sleep less than 7 hours/night, are 3 times more likely to develop colds than those who sleep for 8 hours. Boost your immune system in the spring and fall by opting for more sleep.
• Depressed Mood – This is a vicious cycle. Poor sleep can lead to depression and depression can lead to poor sleep. Bottom line, we need to get enough sleep in order to support mental health.
• Poor Memory and Concentration – Poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function. Whereas proper sleep enhances concentration, cognition, productivity and performance.
I can go on, but I think you get the idea. We need 8 hours of sleep in order to function at our best.
There are many causes of poor sleep but some of the most obvious ones to focus on are caffeine, alcohol and use of phones, laptops and television. Caffeine stimulates your nervous system and therefore, it is ideal to avoid all caffeine containing drinks from noon onward. Alcohol is another common cause of sleep disturbance. While alcohol can help induce sleep, it usually prevents you from cycling through all of your natural stages of sleep during the night. The result is that you often wake up feeling groggy and tired. Try and eliminate alcohol or limit yourself to one drink/night if you have issues with sleep quality or quantity. Lastly do your best to avoid screen time for the hour leading up to bed. This is a great time to pick up a book, collect your thoughts from the day, do some deep breathing or meditation, sip a cup of herbal tea…whatever helps to relax you. It is important to start winding your body down as you approach bedtime. Good sleep is one of the pillars of optimal health. Foster a healthy relationship with your bed…it does your body lots of good. Sleep tight.