When was the last time you woke up and said, “Wow, I feel so refreshed and energetic. I couldn’t sleep another minute if I tried”? You probably haven’t said that lately, or even in the last 15 years!
Feeling tired and sluggish has become the new normal and according to the National Sleep Foundation, most Americans are sleep deprived. Why isn’t anyone getting any sleep? After all, we should have a lot of extra time on our hands considering how modern technology has made things quicker, faster, and easier.
You may be tempted to ignore your heavy eyelids on your drive into work or even those mid-day yawns. These may seem like a nuisance, but not getting enough sleep can also be seriously harming your health.
Modern Advancements vs Sleep
In 1807, gas lighting is invented. London becomes the first city to require homeowners and business owners to light the front of their buildings with lanterns. Yes, this did make the city streets safer, but it also allowed people to be active and productive long after sunset.
No one could have imagined how the world’s productivity would change until 1879 when Thomas Edison invented the first incandescent light bulb. Activity and productivity were no longer restricted to daylight hours. In fact, experts estimate that the average American’s night sleep reduced by at least 3 hours per night after the invention.
Today, we live in a 24/7 society where we can workout at a gym, buy groceries, respond to work emails from our couch, or grab a burger at any time during the night.
Why you may not be getting enough sleep
- Think sleep is unproductive: Many of us don’t realize how important sleep really is and view it as a waste of time.
- Caffeine: There is nothing like a hot cup of joe to get your body and mind moving in the morning (especially when you didn’t sleep well the night before). But many of us, trying push through a late afternoon meeting, or stay energized during our kids’ evening sports event, turn to caffeine to keep us alert. However, caffeine effects can last between 4-6 hours.
- Alcohol: Although alcohol can make you sleepy, the quality of your sleep will suffer. One factor has to do with alcohol blocking REM sleep, which is considered the most restorative type of sleep. In the morning, after consuming alcohol before bed, you’re likely to wake up feeling groggy and unfocused.
- Shift work: People who have varying schedules, especially shift workers, have difficulty establishing a consistent sleep patter.
- Technology use before bed: Smartphone, tablets, and laptops are hard to put down, especially when you can be productive into the wee hours. However, these devices are disrupting our sleep. They emit a blue light that hinder the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your awake/sleep cycles. With reduced melatonin, it is harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Tip: Eliminate your technology use at least 30 minutes before you go to bed (this includes television!).
- Stress: Chronic stress doesn’t allow the mind to relax and the lack of lack and stress turn into a vicious cycle. If you don’t sleep enough at night, your body increases the levels of stress hormones. Ironically, the brain chemicals connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. As a result, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body keeps producing those hormones. So the next day, you feel more stressed and that night you have difficulty falling asleep. And the cycle continues.
- Other medical reasons: There are many other things that can disturb sleep. It could be a medical condition such as asthma or painful arthritis. Or it could be something psychological. The key here is find the causes and deal with them.
Dangers of sleep deprivation
The lack of sleep can affect your mood, memory and over-all health in a surprising number of ways.
- Heart Disease or Stroke: If you get less than 6 hours of sleep each night and have disturbed sleep, you have a 48% greater risk of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater risk of developing or dying from a stroke.
- High Blood Pressure: Lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure, blocked arteries, stroke, kidney disease and dementia.
- Obesity: When you are sleep deprived, your body increases the production of ghrelin, a hunger producing hormone and suppress the production of leptin, an appetite control hormone. As a result, you have an increased sense of hunger without feeling full.
- Compromised immune system: Decreased sleep causes increased stress on your immune system which decreases the production of white blood cells which makes you more susceptible to infections, bacteria, viruses, and even some autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and asthma.
- Impaired exercise performance: With a lack of sleep, your energy level plummets and you may struggle to maintain (or start) any level of physical activity. Not to mention, sleep allows the body to repair and rebuild muscles to reduce and prevent injury.
By taking time to get a good night’s rest now, you are less likely to be forced to make time later when you are recovering from preventable illness or injury.
Take action to getting a better night’s sleep
Still can’t fall asleep? Maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper and take a closer look at your stress levels, nutrition, and daily physical activity.
Contact me for a free 30-minutes Wellness Goal Clarity Call so we can look at what you’re doing now, what’s working and what’s not working, along with recommendations and next steps.