Sleep Hygiene — Part 1
A YouGov survey by insurance company Swinton Group reveals Britain is losing almost five billion hours sleep each year. About half (48%) of adults in the UK admit to not getting enough sleep1. Our health is damaged by the long-term effects of poor sleep. We suffer physically, mentally, socially and professionally when we do not get adequate rest.
With nearly half of us at risk of the long-term effect of broken, inadequate or poor sleep, it’s important we understand what is on the line. What happens if you can’t sleep?
If you chronically get only 5-6 hours of sleep per night, your risk of developing high blood pressure2 increases due to your body’s inability to regulate stress hormones. High blood pressure, in turn, increases your risk for heart disease.
A new study by Philippa J. Benson published in Science Advances found that lack of sleep triggers fat storage and muscle breakdown, a new and exciting finding in the link between sleep and weight.
Increased Injury Risk
Drowsiness leads to a greater risk of accidents in your car and elsewhere. With balance and coordination not at its prime, people trip, fall and hurt themselves more readily.
David Nutt of the Psychopharmacology Unit at the University of Bristol conducted a study on the connection between sleep disturbances and clinical depression3 and concluded that sleep problems are prevalent in depression. About three quarters of depressed patients have some form of insomnia. Chronic poor sleep can lead to depression and the condition is exacerbated by the lack of sleep.
Not being able to sleep causes worry and worry further inhibits the ability to sleep. A vicious cycle, the anxiety feeds the insomnia and the insomnia feeds the anxiety.
A review in the Journal of the Royal Medical Society shows that sleep is a time for the binding of memories. We have different types of memories and the different stages of sleep impact all the types of memories differently. Having a nap following the study of new material positively impacted recall, for example.
A study published in the journal Nature by the University of California, Berkeley found that people who do not get enough sleep feel lonely4 and are not as interested in engaging in social activities as their well rested peers. Further the study found that in viewing photos of well rested and poorly rested participants, those who were not well rested were chosen as appearing lonelier than the well rested ones.
Problems at Work
Decreased communication skills, feeling distracted, diminished performance, and bad recall or memory are just a few of the ways that lack of sleep can negatively impact your work life5.
Weakened Immune System
Many studies have been done linking a decrease in immune system function with lack of sleep. In a German study by C Benedict6 and colleagues, it was concluded that sleep facilitated the formation of new T and B lymphocytes7 (cells that are major components of the adaptive immune response). If you don’t get enough sleep you will be less able to fend off germs and will be sick more frequently.
Strategies for Getting More Sleep
How to get the sleep we need for our well-being? Insomnia in every form is complicated and there is no simple solution but there are some things you can do to improve your situation.
Practice good sleep hygiene. Be sure to have an environment conducive to sleep and a consistent sleep routine. The importance of a comfortable bed cannot be understated. Setting up your space by removing distractions and surrounding yourself with comfort will increase your chances of falling asleep.
Once the physical side is addressed, you can turn to the mental side of things. People who struggle to sleep well point to an active mind as the root cause. Meditation and relaxation directly address this cause of insomnia and can be a key strategy to creating better sleep. Practicing yoga to calm the mind, let go of thoughts, and relax the whole body is also effective for long term relief of sleep disturbances8.
Restful sleep is necessary for the well-being of your body and mind. Finding a solution to even minor sleep disturbances will significantly improve your daily life and overall health.