With so much going on in people’s lives, one of the first things that suffers is the quality and quantity of sleep. For whatever reason, people will get the absolute minimum amount of sleep when they are stressed out or busy, thinking that they can “get by” on less sleep, so long as they are getting things done.
And while sleeping less, people might find themselves tired, they often consider sleep sacrifice to be more or less harmless. That it’s something they can catch up on later.
Let’s be clear on this… it’s not harmless!
Depriving yourself of sleep, especially for an extended period of time, can have consequences on your overall health that can be extremely difficult, even impossible, to recover from.
It has been known for a long time that sleeping regulates hormone release, glucose regulation and cardiovascular function. Deep and restorative sleep, or slow wave sleep (SWS), is further associated with healthy blood pressure, sympathetic nervous system, and heart rate. During SWS, the anabolic growth hormone is released while the stress hormone cortisol is inhibited.
Sleep loss has also been shown to affect appetite regulation because hormones either spike or drop without enough SWS, specifically the hormones that make you hungry and the ones that tell you it is time to stop eating. A lack of sleep can cause metabolic dysregulation and weight gain, and studies have shown that sleep-deprived people want bigger portions of food with more calories, are more impulsive about food. They also experience more fatigue, which, without the proper conditions for sleep, make the cycle harrowing and the effects more severe.
Over the last 50 years, people have been getting less and less sleep. During that same period, obesity, incidences of type 2 diabetes, and other metabolism-related diseases have been on the rise.
There are of course other factors at play. On average, people are living more sedentary lives and eating larger portions of less nutritious diets. But this alone does not account for the rise of obesity-related illnesses. Recently, studies have indicated that sleep loss may be a risk factor for both obesity and type 2 diabetes.
When a person receives a diabetes diagnosis, it is for life – there is no curing it, only managing it. Obesity can also create a domino effect that impacts the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs.
The list goes on.
While this is all very alarming, what is important to remember is that there are steps you can take to ensure you improve the quality and quantity of sleep. While it may seem impossible at first, take it little by little. Start by making a small adjustment to your bedtime. Take more time to wind down, not in front of a screen if possible.
Give yourself a chance to get a good quality sleep. Set reasonable goals, like an extra 20 minutes a night, and increase it by 10 minutes each week. By the end of the month, you’ll have nearly an extra hour of sleep each night, and you will likely see other things with your health begin to change for the better. Isn’t it worth the effort?