I hope you had a good night’s sleep last night! If not, feel free to not read on because sometimes when you can’t sleep properly, the last thing you need is somebody telling you how important sleep is. I know there are a lot of parents with young babies and children that have no control over how much sleep they are getting. Or if you are like a lot of others at the moment worrying about COVID or finding it hard to adapt to the “new normal” that COVID has provided us with then I am sure you too have been struggling with sleep recently.
Upon some research I couldn’t actually believe how important sleep is and how impactful even one or two nights of broken sleep can be. I get lots of questions like; “How can I motivate myself to get up earlier?” or “Do you have any tips for getting up at 5am?” and I think to myself – “Eh… set alarm, get up?!” but one major thing I tell people is that you need to get 8 hours sleep. For those people that do get up at 5.30am the reality is that they are normally asleep by 9.30pm ensuring that they still get their 8 hours sleep. So, if you take anything from this – make it your priority to get at least 8 hours sleep, if and when possible.
A lot of people believe that you can sleep when you are dead. However, the reality is that the less you sleep, the sooner that will be. Sleep affects us in so many ways. It is the body’s chance to rest and regenerate. Here are just a few;
|Learning and memory
Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
|Metabolism and weight
Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels and irregular heartbeat.
Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells.
I also found this image that really explains all the different effects that lack of sleep can cause.
It is quite shocking when you read about all the effects, especially around weakened immune systems. On a positive note, let’s look at this in reverse. Imagine you were told there is a new pill that can help your immune system, help regulate your weight, improve your sex drive, lower your risk of heart disease, boost your mood, improve your memory and concentration? And that it was completely free? I know I would do anything to get it. And yet we have the power to improve our sleep every single day. I don’t have all the answers on how to improve your sleep, but I do know that it should be your priority – before even considering losing weight or dieting, you should consider the stress that is put on your body with a lack of sleep.
Finding a perfect balance between; sleep, diet an exercise has been scientifically proven to prevent the early onset of Alzheimer’s and if one of those three things i.e. sleep, is off balance then it impacts the other two areas e.g. if you only get 5 hours sleep at night, then you wake up feeling tired, you crave sugary foods to give you energy and get you through the day and then you have minimal interest in exercising whereas if you got a solid 8 hours sleep, you would be more likely to wake up and exercise because you feel good in yourself and then when you exercise you want to eat healthy too because you don’t want to waste the effort of the exercise that you just completed. So, start with improving your sleep and see for yourself the impact that that can have.
If you want to learn more, check out Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker or even this podcast with the same author.
Hopefully this article was insightful and not too terrifying for those that have trouble sleeping!