We all know that a regular exercise routine and clean eating are integral players in leading a healthy lifestyle. Most people, however, disregard the immense role a good night's sleep has on our overall wellbeing.
Getting ready for bed nice and early is easy, but most of us probably spend a good chunk of time scrolling through social media before we actually snooze. The bad news is that whether you recognise it or not (and you most probably do), lack of sleep can have massive consequences. Nights of light sleep and insomniac patterns are just around the corner if these bad habits continue. Your body will soon be depleted of energy, you'll become irritable and wonder how you got to this point. Here are 10 reasons why you need to create a healthy sleep routine for yourself to beat insomnia and finally get better sleep long-term.
What happens to your body when you don't get enough sleep
1. People who get a good amount of sleep tend to eat fewer calories
Studies show that people who are sleep deprived or are battling with insomnia have bigger appetites and tend to consume more calories. This is because poor sleep affects the hormones that regulate appetite. This includes higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite.
2. Good sleep can boost your concentration levels
Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function, like cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation. Let's take this study based on medical interns for example – interns on a 'traditional schedule' made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed more sleep (1). Short sleep patterns can negatively impact some aspects of brain function to a similar degree as alcohol intoxication.
Good sleep, on the other hand, has been shown to improve problem-solving skills, enhance memory performance and boost the concentration of both children and adults.
3. Good sleep can maximise your athletic performance
In a study on basketball players, longer sleep was shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental wellbeing (2). What's more, less sleep duration has been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation in elderly women. A study of over 2,800 women found that poor sleep was linked to slower walking, lower grip strength, and greater difficulty performing independent activities (3).
4. Lack of sleep can make you super emotional
Sleep loss reduces our ability to interact socially. Several studies confirmed this using emotional facial recognition tests. One study found that people who had not slept well had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness. Researchers believe that poor sleep affects our ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information and can even make you more irritable long-term (4).
5. Sleep boosts your immune system
Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function. A two week study monitored the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the virus that causes colds. They found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more (5). If you often get colds, ensuring that you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night could be very helpful and help to boost your immune system naturally.
6. Poor sleep is linked to depression
It's been estimated that 90% of patients with depression complain about sleep quality. Those with sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, report significantly higher rates of depression than those without (6).
7. Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease
We know that sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many risk factors. These are the factors believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease. A review of 15 studies found that short sleepers are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night (7).
8. Sleep affects glucose metabolism and type-2 diabetes risk
Experimental sleep restriction affects blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity. In a study including healthy young men, restricting their sleep time to 4 hours per night for six nights in a row caused symptoms of pre-diabetes. This was then resolved after one week of increased sleep duration. Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population. Those sleeping less than 6 hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at increased risk for type 2 diabetes (8).
9. Poor sleep can affect your bathroom time
Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in the body. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract. One study observed that sleep-deprived patients with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse as patients who slept well (9). Researchers are even recommending sleep evaluation to help predict outcomes in sufferers of long-term inflammatory issues.
10. Poor sleep can make you store fat and gain more weight
People with short sleep duration tend to weigh significantly more than those who get adequate sleep. In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. In one massive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to become obese, respectively (10). The effect of sleep on weight gain is believed to be mediated by numerous factors, including hormones and motivation to exercise. If you are trying to lose weight, getting quality sleep is absolutely crucial. Here's to a good night's sleep!
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1. PLOS Medicine: https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0030487
2. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119836/
3. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17969465
4. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20337191
5. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2629403/
6. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16259539
7. BMJ Respitory Research Journal: https://bmjopenrespres.bmj.com/content/4/1/e000206
8. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2845795/
9. World Journal of Gastroenterology: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3882397/
10. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2398753/