Do you ever have mornings when you’re convinced your alarm went off an hour or two early? What about those afternoons when you’re fighting off the dreaded head nods at your desk? Craving the same early bed time that your kids are resisting? Hint: you need more sleep.
It happens very gradually, a late night followed by an early morning, a weekend dinner party that turns into an all-night party, kids waking up at all hours, a dog or cat who seems to take over the entire bed, or maybe you’re fighting a noisy brain that won’t let you sleep.
Regardless of the source of the problem, the reality is that you are sleep deprived. At first this lack of sleep is manageable and you likely didn’t even notice the impacts it’s having on your health, mood, and outlook on life.
Then it happens, one day your spouse or kids notice that you’re irritable or you find yourself reaching for that fourth cup of coffee at 3 p.m. These are all signs of chronic sleep deprivation. Slowly but surely, the toll of not getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night adds up until you come crashing down.
This might sound overly dramatic, but sadly, it’s not. Lack of sleep is often cited as the source of health problems, stressors at home and work, avoidable accidents, and other mishaps.
Sleep Deprivation and Your Health
Few people understand how critical sleep is to our health, so us at AHCC Research want to make an effort to change this. (So please, share this article on Facebook, Twitter, and over email. The more people who understand how vital regular good sleep is to health – the better.)
- Central nervous system: think of your central nervous system as the information highway in your body. When this brain network is impaired by a lack of sleep, you may experience problems making decisions, focusing, and in maintaining a positive mood. When lack of sleep becomes chronic, your central nervous system becomes progressively more damaged, resulting in depression, paranoia, and even suicidal thoughts.
- Immune system: your immune system is critical in protecting your body from viruses, bacteria, disease, and other unwanted invaders. When you’re sleeping, your immune system gets to work creating cytokines to help you fight off infections, inflammation, and diseases. As an extra bonus, these cytokines also help you sleep. When you’re suffering from sleep deprivation, your immune system doesn’t have a chance to regenerate and be prepared to protect you from illness.
- Cardiovascular system: when you’re missing out on sleep, your heart and blood vessels are forced to work harder to keep you healthy and moving. You’ll likely experience elevated blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and increased inflammation – all which impact your cardiovascular system. In fact, a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Oncology showed the connection between insomnia and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Get Some Sleep!
To be honest, we could have kept on writing about the effects of sleep deprivation on your health but we wanted to focus on three of the often-overlooked impacts. And, now, we want you to get some sleep… use these tips to help you improve your hours and quality of sleep.
- Stick to a schedule. Try to go to bed and wake-up at the same time through-out the week.
- Skip the caffeine. Yes, this means no coffee, tea, or caffeinated drinks such as Coke or a fancy coffee shop drink in the early evening and directly before bed.
- Exercise. To get to a deep restful sleep, your body needs to feel tired. Avoid exercising right before bed since for many people exercise often has short-term stimulating effects that can disrupt sleep.
- Control stress. Yes, often the stress is a result of being over-tired… but try to keep stressful thoughts under control as your bedtime approaches.
- Meditation. For many of us, our head hits the pillow and our brain starts going bonkers with thoughts about the day, the next day, and more. Meditation or deep breathing when you lie down can help calm your mind and signal to your body that it’s time for rest.
- Immune system support. Remember those cytokines – you need them to help you sleep. If you’re low on sleep, you’re likely low on cytokines… Don’t forget that AHCC is key in strengthening your immune system and giving it the edge it needs to keep you healthy and rested.
- Get comfy. Make sure your bedroom is at a moderate temperature (not too hot but not too cold), that your blankets or quilt are comfortable, and that you feel cozy. When we’re not comfortable in our surroundings, we end up at a heightened level of alertness, which can make it challenging to calm down and sleep.
Now, we want to know your best sleep tips. Tell us what you’ve learned and how you’ve overcome the effects of sleep deprivation. Stand out from the crowd and get some sleep – you’ll feel better, look better, and have an improved health.