Getting a good night’s sleep helps us to be happier, more productive people.
What are the effects of not enough sleep?
“prolonged wakefulness is a widespread phenomenon … Prolonged wakefulness can be due to acute total sleep deprivation (SD) or to chronic partial sleep restriction.”
When we fall asleep, our brains are not merely offline, they’re busy organizing new memories. If you don’t get enough sleep, this process doesn’t happen properly. During sleep, the brain replays neural firing patterns experienced while awake, also known as “offline replay.” Replay is thought to underlie memory consolidation, the process by which recent memories acquire more permanence in their neural representation.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control:
“Adults who sleep less than 7 hours each night are more likely to say they have had health problems, including heart attack, asthma, and depression. Some of these health problems raise the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. These health problems include:
High blood pressure. During normal sleep, your blood pressure goes down. Having sleep problems means your blood pressure stays higher for a longer amount of time.4 High blood pressure is one of the leading risks for heart disease and stroke. About 75 million Americans—one in three adults—have high blood pressure.
Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that causes sugar to build up in your blood, a condition that can damage your blood vessels. Some studies show that getting enough good sleep may help people improve blood sugar control.
Obesity. Lack of sleep can lead to unhealthy weight gain. This is especially true for children and adolescents, who need more sleep than adults. Not getting enough sleep may affect a part of the brain that controls hunger.”
Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day — and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. This has important health implications: previous research shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
Researchers from Washington State University found:
“Increasing the amount of time spent asleep immediately after a traumatic experience may ease any negative consequences. The study helps build a case for use of sleep therapeutics following trauma exposure. The finding holds promise for populations that are routinely exposed to trauma, such as military personnel and first responders, and may also benefit victims of accidents, natural disaster, violence, and abuse.”
Research published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation found:
Researcherswrite:Lecturer in Exercise and Health, Nottingham Trent University, UK) and Lecturer in Health and Exercise Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle)
“Healthy sleep habits are associated with a lower risk of heart failure. Adults with the healthiest sleep patterns (morning risers, sleeping 7-8 hours a day and no frequent insomnia, snoring or excessive daytime sleepiness) experienced a 42% reduction in the risk of heart failure compared to those with unhealthy sleep patterns.”
“Sleep influences two important appetite hormones in our body – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that decreases appetite, so when leptin levels are high we usually feel fuller. On the other hand, ghrelin is a hormone that can stimulate appetite, and is often referred to as the “hunger hormone” because it’s thought to be responsible for the feeling of hunger.
“One study found that sleep restriction increases levels of ghrelin and decreases leptin. Another study, which included a sample of 1,024 adults, also found that short sleep was associated with higher levels of ghrelin and lower levels of leptin. This combination could increase a person’s appetite, making calorie-restriction more difficult to adhere to, and may make a person more likely to overeat.”
Tips to help you get a good night’s sleep:
Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, caffeine will persist for several hours: it takes about 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated.
2. Stop smoking – nicotine is a stimulant and so can make it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep.
3. Go to bed at the same time each night so that you set a routine. The NHS advises:
“First of all, keep regular sleeping hours. This programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine.”
4. Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering found that bathing 1-2 hours before bedtime in water of about 104-109 degrees Fahrenheit (40 – 43 degrees celsius) can significantly improve your sleep.
5. Use dimmers on your light switches, and dim the lights in the hours before you go to bed to mimic the change from daylight to night-time.
7. If you can’t get to sleep after a while, get up keeping the lights low and do something boring until you feel sleepy.
8. Alcohol may help you get to sleep, but you are more likely to wake during the night feeling thirsty and needing to go to the bathroom.
9. Get your allergies checked out, particularly if you wake craving particular food in the middle of the night.
10. Avoid paying bills and similar jobs just before sleep.
11. Try relaxed breathing: breathe slowly and deeply concentrating on your abdomen rather than your chest.
12. Try a herbal tea – chamomile, passion flower, lavender flowers or valerian are good, or take a herbal supplement such as scullcap or valerian. See WebMD for more suggestions like this.
13. Put the essential oils lavender and clary sage on your pillow and inhale their soothing vapours as you sleep.
14. Try some flower remedies – there are lots of different types. In the Bach flower remedies you might like to try ‘vervain’ if you find it difficult to switch off from the day; ‘holly’ if anger and resentment keep you awake; ‘white chestnut’ for persistent unwanted thoughts; ‘aspen’ if you wake because of nightmares.
15. Try using affirmations, such as: “I let go of the day, and enjoy restful, peaceful sleep” repeated several times while you prepare for sleep.
16. Try holding your frontal eminences (the bumps on your forehead, about half way between your eyebrows and hairline) if you are awake because of stress. Read more about this technique here>>
17. Try taking supplements – magnesium and calcium can work well.
18. If you suffer with hot flushes/flashes, try some natural support for your endocrine system at this time.
19. Many alternative and complementary therapists have success with people with sleep problems. Find a local therapist and ask them if they have experience in this field.
20. Sleep problems can be a sign of an underlying medical condition (e.g. thyroid problems or depression), so get this checked out with a suitably qualified health professional.