We all complain now and again about getting too few nightly winks and waking up too tired to rise, let alone shine. But while an odd sleepless night isn’t a serious health concern, chronic lack of sweet dreams is, and it can wreak havoc on your body, brain function, and emotional shape unless remedied adequately. Burning the candle at both ends is a shortcut to a wide range of grave health issues which can jeopardize both your own wellbeing and public safety: dozing off behind the wheel is not exactly a safe traffic scenario. The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research has released that around 70 million of U.S. citizens suffer from problems sleeping, and nearly 60 percent of them have a chronic sleep disorder. But what exactly is sleep deprivation doing to your body, and how can you fight it?
Health Points Lost to Sleep Deprivation
Apart from shaving your life quality, lack of sleep can do a nasty number on physical and mental health, and it can even trim your lifespan by a few years. According to Harvard Medical School, less than five hours of nightly shuteye amp cellular stress and increase the risk of death from all causes by as many as 15 percent. Take a quick look at the negative effects of sleep deprivation on the body, just to stay on the safe and well-informed side of the bed.
Impaired Brain Function
Sleep allows neurons in the brain to rest, which facilitates formation of new pathways required for optimal cognitive function in the long run. Getting fewer Zzzzs than your busy brain needs to recover and replenish after a stressful day at work can impair brain function and cause focus and creativity dips, memory glitches, mood swings, and even hallucinations.
Immune System Hitches
When you’re asleep, your body synthesizes protective cytokines and infection-fighting cells and antibodies which keep immune function in check. Failure to get enough hours of sleep over extended periods of time can therefore lead to increased sensitivity to bacterial infections and viruses, as well as immune system dips.
Depression and Anxiety
Chronic shortage of sweet dreams has also been linked to increased risk of depression, anxiety, and many other psychological problems. Mood swings are usually the first sign of an evolving psychological problem, and other telltale symptoms that point to sleep-related mental disorders in the making include fatigue, memory glitches, lack of energy, and loss interest in daily activities.
Lack of sleep can lead to high blood pressure, thus increasing the risk of cardiovascular issues, stroke, arrhythmia, and heart disease. According to WebMD, as many as 90% of people affected by insomnia also suffer from a sleeplessness-related condition, so if you want to do your heart and overall health a favor, try extending your nighttime naps.
Weight Gain and Diabetes
It’s a well-known fact that sleepless nights speed up skin aging and leave ugly dark, puffy circles around the eyes, but the problem doesn’t stop at the skin level. Sleep disorders have also been linked to emotional binges, cravings for fatty and sugary snacks and consequent weight gain, as well as diabetes type 2. The takeaway? Cut down on serving sizes, not sleep hours.
Get The Sleep Your Mind and Body Need
However lengthy your To Do list may be, it’s not an excuse to trim your total sleep time. Even if you can’t extend the hours spent in the dream realm, you can do a few things to improve sleep quality, reduce the impact of stress on your daily functioning, and wake up every morning fully energized and ready to take on all the challenges the day has in store for you.
Cut Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a quick fix most people use to hack alertness and productivity when focus takes a nosedive. A cup or two of java a day are okay, but if you’re prone to problems falling (and staying) asleep at night, you may want to trim your coffee intake for long-term brain function’s sake. You can try swapping a cup of coffee for a glass of water or a refreshing smoothie, or replace the extra espresso with a brief meditation session for a healthy change.
Invest in Quality Mattress
Over time, even the comfiest bed can turn into your worst nightmare and cause you to toss and turn more than indulge in a good night’s sleep. Don’t skimp on bedding: money spent on a first-rate king single mattress and memory foam pillows is an investment in nighttime comfort, peaceful dreams, and long-term wellbeing.
Soothing Scents for Sleep
Fragrant oils have been used by alternative medicine practitioners for centuries now, and some of the essential drops available on the market can help you fall asleep faster. If Sandman seems to be off duty, try adding a few drops of Roman chamomile, lavender, or sandalwood oil to your bath or sprinkle them on the bedclothes to scent your way to pleasant dreams.
Ditch the Smart Screen
If you have a habit of chatting nights away on Facebook or Twitter, it’s a small wonder you’re still awake. Studies show that the blue light emitted by laptop and phone screens suppress melatonin production and postpone the moment when you finally fall asleep. Ditch the phone before you turn in for the night: try a real book instead, or try conscious breathing exercises to calm the nervous system and tap into Z(zzz)en power.
Snacking to Dreamland
Carbohydrate-rich foods are your sleep’s worst enemy, especially if you munch on them late at night. Your bedtime meals should be centered on healthy high glycemic foods, such as corn chips and boiled rice and veggies. You can also increase intake of dairy, cherry juice, honey, walnuts, and kale which are known to be tryptophan and melatonin enhancers.
An average person spends about one third of their life sleeping – and even if this may sound just a touch too much for you, it still doesn’t mean that cutting sleep time is 100% viable in the long run. Sleep deprivation can cause a host of physical and mental problems and compromise your long-term wellbeing, so do your future self a favor and prepare yourself for extra winks tonight to keep your health, productivity, and energy level in check. Sweet dreams!