by Aisling Killoran
Sleep health deserves as much attention as fitness or nutrition because it truly is crucial to our wellbeing. In order to keep well you need to sleep well, but are you as good a sleeper as you think? Are you getting enough and do you give sleep hygiene the gravitas it warrants?
In this article. you’ll learn just how important sleep health is and how much sleep you should aim to get each night.
What happens when you sleep?
Sleep is when your body heals and reboots for the next day.
Dr. Sarah McKay from the neuroscience Academy says “Sleep keeps us out of harm’s way at night time. It conserves our energy demand and expenditure. Restores and rejuvenates our body and sleep is needed for learning, memory and brain development.
- Our body is rebuilding, repairing and healing while we sleep
- Our Inner battery gets powered up!
- Hormones recalibrate
- Body flushes toxins from our brain
- Brain processes and performs memory consolidation
- Sleeping enhances our creativity
- Sleeping clears and restores our mind
- We even burn calories while we sleep!
What happens if we don’t sleep enough?
Sleep deprivation has serious health implications, both in the short-term and long-term.
After just one night’s poor sleep you’ll lose some of your cognitive function and reaction. Think of driver fatigue, for example, Sleep deprivation will also reduce your productivity at work. It impacts your emotional wellbeing and is also likely to contribute to poor lifestyle choices, for example over-reliance on caffeine in an attempt to boost energy.
Rest assured, some of these issues can be reversed with a good night’s sleep. However, sleep deprivation on an ongoing basis carries serious implications for your health.
- Lack of sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast.
- A 2013 study reported that men who slept too little had a sperm count 29% lower than those who regularly get a full and restful night’s sleep.
- Lack of sleep reduces your lifespan. More than 20 large-scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. To take just one example, adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven or eight hours a night.
- Getting too little sleep across the adult lifespan raises your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. When we sleep, the housekeeping is done, cleaning out all the days waste from the brain.
- Weight Gain. Sleep less than 6 hours and you’re 30% more likely to become obese! And at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as people who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. Corporate wellness nutritionist with The Wellness Crew Ciara Wright informs us that inadequate sleep decreases levels of the satiety signalling hormone, leptin, and increases levels of the hunger-signalling hormone, ghrelin. This makes us more likely to overeat.
How much sleep do you need each night?
50% of the world’s population is sleep deprived, with the average sleep time of 5- 6 hours per day. The actual number of hours needed for adult sleep is 8 hours 36 mins according to the World Health Organisation.
This is the average amount of sleep needed. It does vary from person to person. However, sleep deprivation will start to kick in for many of us if we get 90 mins less than this consistently. Only 3% of the world population can survive on less than 3 hours sleep (due to the DEC2 gene mutation).
Tip: If you are curious to discover your OPTIMAL sleep time then take note of the time you wake up at naturally and then backtrack to time you went to sleep, and you will get your natural baseline for the hours of sleep you need. Best to action this during the weekend or when on holidays! As your boss won’t be too happy if you arrive late to work!
How do you know if you’re sleep deprived?
✓ It takes you a long time to get up and you keep hitting that snooze button!
✓ If you wake up feeling groggy
✓ If you need lots of stimulants
✓ If you’re grumpy and irritable
✓ If you’re told by your work colleagues that your looking tired!
…… Chances are you are sleep deprived
What can you do about sleep deprivation?
First off the bat is that you should take sleep deprivation seriously. We’ve discussed the negative health implications that a lack of sleep can cause in the long-term. It’s up to you to prevent the impact of sleep deprivation by actively seeking more sleep.
For some people, it may simply be a case of going to bed earlier. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep then it’s a good idea to examine your sleep hygiene routine and see where you can make some improvements.
There are heaps of positive actions you can take to improve your sleep health. Check out 17 Sleep Health Tips to Guarantee You ZZZs.
If sleep deprivation persists, however, it is recommended to consult with your doctor.