Sleep matters more than you might think. Just losing a few hours of sleep can leave you feeling dull and worn out. Chronic sleep deprivation can have more serious effects on your physical and mental health. Fortunately, you can take just a few easy steps to start sleeping like a baby. Our experts will review the following items so you can get on track to sleeping better:
- Why sleep matters
- Common reasons you are losing sleep
- Long-term effects of no sleep
- Best supplements for sleep
Why Sleep Matters
While you sleep, nearly every part of your body goes through notable changes. Your body is busy repairing cells, muscles, and other organs as you sleep, for example, and your brain consolidates memories to help you remember what you have learned . Sleep also plays an important role in regulating mood, appetite, and even libido.
Sleep disorders are common. In fact, sleep disorders affect 50 to 70 million people in the United States . About 25 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea, and 30 to 40 percent of adults in the nation experience symptoms of insomnia at some point each year. The problem of sleep deprivation is so widespread that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations have declared lack of sleep as a national health problem that threatens the health of Americans [3,4].
Some people have a higher risk of poor sleep than do others, and sleep disorders can come and go throughout the course of a person's life. Those with non-traditional sleep schedules, such as those in the medical profession or who otherwise work odd shifts, may have trouble sleeping. Sleep may also be an issue for people who travel a lot or who have anxiety disorders or overly-active minds that disrupt their sleep schedule.
Whether you have a short-term problem with insomnia or a chronic sleep disorder that goes on for months or years, you need to find a solution. The first step towards getting adequate sleep is to identify the reasons you are not getting enough sleep.
Common Reasons You Are Losing Sleep
Too Much Caffeine
Caffeine can help you zip through your day with energy and pizzazz, but too much of the stuff can also keep you awake at night. In fact, research shows that consuming even a moderate amount of caffeine, like that in a couple of cups of coffee or energy drinks, six hours before bedtime can have a significant effect on sleep .
Caffeine blocks special receptors in the brain, known as adenosine receptors, to prevent sleep. Adenosine is a chemical that acts as a nervous system depressant – adenosine levels rise throughout the day; when they reach a certain level, you feel sleepy. Caffeine prevents the accumulation of adenosine in a way that prevents you from feeling drowsy.
Uncomfortable Sleeping Arrangements
Lumpy mattresses, pillows that are too fat or too thin, rooms that are too cold or too hot, or even too much ambient light can make it hard to sleep.
Watching TV or Using a Computer or Cell Phone Before Bed
About 60 percent of Americans use a computer or watch television to relax during the hour before bedtime, and approximately 40 percent bring their smartphones to bed with them [6,7]. While playing on a computer or watching TV can help you unwind, too much screen time right before bed can have a negative effect on the quality of your sleep. Late night exposure to artificial light, like that emitted by TVs and digital screens, can interrupt your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels. Watching an exciting show or engaging in a spirited conversation online can stimulate your brain and prevent you from feeling drowsy.
Discover more powerful sleeping tips on our blog: How to Sleep Better.
Long-Term Effects of No Sleep
If you have ever gone without getting enough pillow time, you know what happens with lack of sleep: you feel terrible. Losing just a couple hours of sleep in one night can make you feel so groggy and listless that you cannot think straight or get much done; long-term effects of sleep deprivation can include even more serious health hazards. In fact, long term effects of sleep deprivation can include serious illness, unhealthy lifestyle changes, and mental health problems.
Long-term sleep deprivation can contribute to the development of a wide variety of serious illnesses such as:
- Heart attack or stroke
- Immune system deficiency
- Restrictive lung disease
- Chronic kidney disease
Diabetes is a condition characterized by high blood sugar levels. Normally, the body produces the hormone insulin, which "unlocks" cells so that they can absorb the sugar they need from the bloodstream. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin to allow cells to absorb blood sugar. In type 2 diabetes, the cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, and this insulin resistance prevents the cells from absorbing sugar from the blood. Both inadequate insulin production and insulin resistance allows blood sugar levels to rise and remain high.
Not getting enough sleep, or getting poor-quality sleep, is associated with high blood sugar levels. Researchers think lack of sleep can affect insulin to keep blood sugar at unhealthy levels, resulting in diabetes . Lack of sleep and high blood sugar can both elevate the level of cortisol, which is the body's "fight or flight" hormone.
Heart attack or stroke
Lack of sleep can increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke. In fact, research shows that people who sleep less than 6 hours a night have a 20 percent higher risk for heart attack; people who wake up frequently throughout the night also have a higher risk . Sleep deprivation can also increase your risk for a stroke .
Immune system deficiency
There is a strong connection between adequate sleep and a hearty immune system that protects you from infectious diseases. While you are sleeping, your immune system is busy revving up production of certain important components of immunity; when you do not sleep well or long enough, your immune system cannot produce the infection-fighting tools it needs to protect you from colds, flus, and other infections. In fact, research shows that people who sleep less than 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night have a higher risk of catching a cold than do those who get enough rest .
Restrictive lung disease
Poor sleep can weaken the immune system to leave the lungs vulnerable to infections. Sleep deficiencies can also worsen the signs and symptoms of certain types of lung disease.
Restrictive lung disease, for example, is an umbrella term for several conditions that decrease the total volume of air the lungs are able to hold. These conditions include asbestosis caused by inhalation of asbestos, sarcoidosis that causes inflammatory growths, and pulmonary fibrosis that causes thick, stiff scar tissue on the lungs.
Chronic kidney disease
There's a strong connection between how much shut-eye you get and the function of your kidneys. The 24-hour sleep-wake cycle helps coordinate the kidney's workload, for example, to give your kidneys time off while you nap. In fact, your body produces a hormone that slows down kidney function while you sleep . Sleep disruptions that interfere with this sleep-wake cycle can affect how well the kidneys function – poor sleep can also cause serious problems. Research links insomnia with chronic kidney disease and progressive loss of kidney function .
Also known as excessive uncontrollable daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy is a chronic condition that can cause you to fall asleep during the day. Narcolepsy affects the brain's ability to control sleep-wake cycles, resulting in uneven sleep patterns at night and overpowering urges to sleep when you are supposed to be awake. Narcolepsy can be inconvenient, in that it can interfere with everyday activities, such as working or enjoying time with your family. The condition can also be dangerous if you fall asleep while driving, operating heavy machinery, or cooking.
Anyone who is severely sleep deprived can experience many of the symptoms of narcolepsy, including sudden attacks of sleep, loss of muscle control, and muscle weakness .
Poor sleep habits can also seriously affect your personal life and daily habits, including:
- Weight gain
- Fertility issues
- Drug abuse
- Alcohol abuse
- Jet lag
Compared with sleeping 10 hours a night, sleeping just four hours nightly appears to increase hunger and appetite, particularly for high-calorie foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates . Lack of sleep can increase the body's hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Poor sleep can also leave you feeling listless, which may cause you to exercise less.
Sleep disturbances can cause fertility issues, as the part of the brain that regulates your sleep-wake hormones also influences your daily release of reproductive hormones .
There is a correlation between sleep disturbances and drug abuse: abusing certain drugs can affect your sleep patterns, of course, but there is also evidence of links between insufficient sleep and behavioral problems, such as substance abuse .
As with drug abuse, there seem to be strong connections between sleep deprivation and alcohol abuse.
Jet lag is an uncomfortable effect from flying quickly across multiple time zones, which disrupts your sleep-wake cycle. Sleep deprivation enhances the discomfort of jet lag to the point where you can barely function.
Mental health problems
Severe mental health issues may also arise from lack of sleep. These include, but are not limited to:
- Psychiatric disorders
- Memory loss
Lack of sleep can cause a number of psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety .
Researchers have been studying the relationship between sleep deprivation and memory loss for more than 100 years, and in that time, they have found that getting enough sleep is essential for consolidating memories .
Best Supplements for Sleeping
Sleep doesn't always come easy, even for those who avoid caffeine, create a comfortable sleeping space, and turn off their cell phones and computers hours before bedtime. Fortunately, sleep aid supplements can help you get the sleep you need to feel sharp and stay healthy.
REM Sleep by Healthycell helps you fall asleep easily, stay asleep, sleep deeply, and achieve REM, supporting all four stages of sleep. The REM Sleep supplement contains a balanced formula of calming herbs, amino acids, and other ingredients that fully optimize your sleep cycles for maximum health benefits†. Melatonin, lemon balm extract, and GABA quiet your mind and ease your body into sleep mode. Amino acids and other ingredients keep your body regulate its temperature, helping you to stay cool and comfortable all night long. REM Sleep contains natural ingredients that support the regulation of sleep hormones, so you feel sleepy at night and wide awake during the day. This special blend also helps you get the deep, restorative sleep you need to wake up feeling refreshed and energized.†
REM Sleep also uses next-generation MICROGEL™ technology that helps your body absorb the nutrients in the formula. This Technology releases extremely small, soluble, ultra-bioavailable nutrient particles into your digestive tract, which makes it easy for your body to absorb and utilize the active ingredients in REM Sleep. As you have learned in this article, there are serious physical and mental implications for sleep deprivation. Make sure you are taking active measures to get better sleep and consider Healthycell gel vitamins to support a healthy lifestyle.