All The Health Problems Poor Sleep Habits Can Lead To

This article was written by Maureen Farrar and originally published in Amazing Wellness magazine.

A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, sleep is a cornerstone
of wellness, equally as important as eating well and exercising. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and even safety. Read on to find out how you can get the sleep you need.

Why Sleep Matters

How you feel while you’re awake depends on what happens while you sleep. As we snooze, our brains and bodies are hard at work, repairing us from our day, and refueling us for the day ahead.

When you’re sleep-deficient, it affects everything from your ability to problem solve, to your memory, mood, and even your health. In his book Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life, Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar writes, “If you don’t balance your activity with rest, you will deplete your strength, weaken your digestive fire, and ultimately shorten your life span.”

Sleep And Heart Health

Sleep is important for the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Shortchanging yourself on sleep can lead to an uptick in stress hormones like cortisol, which forces your heart to work harder. In fact, sleep disorders have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Sleep, Metabolism, And Weight

Sleep deficiency also increases your risk of obesity because it helps you maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) and full (leptin). When you don’t get enough shut-eye, your ghrelin levels go up and leptin levels go down, making you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.

Not sleeping also impacts how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood sugar. When you don’t get enough sleep, your blood sugar increases, which may increase your risk of diabetes.

Sleep and Mood

When you’re tired, you’re more prone to irritability, impatience, and moodiness. You’re also more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, which makes it harder to control your emotions. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep-deprived people are also less likely to exercise, eat healthfully, and engage in activities.

Sleep, Learning, and Memory

Studies show that sleep improves learning and problem-solving skills, while sleep deprivation lowers alertness and concentration, which can affect your ability to focus and perform basic tasks.

Research also suggests that different phases of sleep are involved in consolidating information into memories. Sleep interruptions interfere with this process.

Sleep and Disease

Quality sleep keeps your immune system strong, so you can keep colds, flus, and other infections at bay. While you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Some of these cytokines need to increase to defend your body in the fact of infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Not getting enough sleep may decrease production of these protective proteins.

New research from the National Institutes of Health also warns that losing just one night of sleep can lead to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s, beta-amyloid proteins clump together to form a hallmark of the disease called amyloid plaques.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

We all know people who swear they can get by on four or five hours of sleep a night, but most of us need more than that. How much? According to the National Sleep Foundation, “sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. To determine how much sleep you need, it’s important to assess not only where you fall on the ‘sleep needs spectrum,’ but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep.”

The national Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours a night for adults aged 26 to 64, and seven to eight hours for adults 65 and older. Pay attention to your individual needs by assessing how you feel after different amounts of sleep. Ask yourself the following:

  • Are you productive, healthy, and happy on 7 hours of sleep? Or do you need 9 hours to get you moving?
  • Are you having health issue such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
  • Are you experiencing sleep problems?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?

Most of us have forgotten what being truly rested feels like!

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

The good news: You can reverse the effects of sleeplessness by getting more snooze time. Implement these tips into your routine and you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier life.

Stick To A Sleep Schedule

Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day—even on weekends—helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.

Practice A Bedtime Ritual

Take a bath, power down your electronics an hour before bed, journal, or listen to soothing music. These rituals help signal the body that it’s time to sleep. Separate yourself from activities that cause stress or anxiety, which make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Exercise Daily

Exercise boosts the effects of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin. However, working out too close to bedtime can stimulate you, so give yourself a few hours of buffer time between exercising and hitting the hay.

Keep Cool

You may want to crank up the heat to be cozy at bedtime, but you’ll sleep better if your bedroom is between 60 and 67 degrees. Temps in this range cause a drop in your core body temperature that initiates sleepiness.

Dim The Lights

Too much light before bedtime can suppress melatonin levels. Dim the lights or turn off all unnecessary lights near bedtime.

De-Stress

Stress activates fight-or-flight hormones that will keep you up at night. Give yourself time to wind down before bed with a relaxation technique like meditation or deep breathing exercises.

Supplements That Can Help

If you find that the daily tips above aren’t quite doing the trick, a supplement may be able to help.

1. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It maintains our body’s circadian rhythm (a.k.a. internal clock), which is based on the rising and setting of the sun. Our internal clock plays a critical role in when we fall asleep and wake up.

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Supplementing with melatonin can boost our natural levels and help get our body clock on track when it’s time to hit the hay. Try The Vitamin Shoppe brand Raspberry Liquid Melatonin.

2. Valerian Root

Valerian root promotes slumber by calming the nervous system. Valerian root becomes more effective over time, so try to take it every night for a few weeks to gauge if it works for you. Try Nature’s Way Valerian Root capsules

3. L-Theanine

An amino acid found in tea, l-theanine has a calming effect on the brain by impacting the amino acids involved in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin. You’ll find it in single-formula tablets and capsules, and in combination with other sleep-supporting nutrients. Try Source Naturals L-Theanine tablets.

4. Magnesium

The mineral magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system, helps muscles relax after contracting, and is thought to help decrease the release of cortisol. Studies have linked higher magnesium levels with deeper sleep.

Related: 4 Unexpected Benefits Of Taking Magnesium

Try magnesium tablets or capsules alone, or magnesium in combination with herbs. Natural Vitality Natural Calm is a fan favorite.

5. L-Tryptophan

This amino acid, which is found in turkey, milk, and eggs, is essential for serotonin production. Look for it in combination formulas, or as a stand-alone supplement. Try The Vitamin Shoppe brand L-Tryptophan veggie caps.

6. 5-HTP

5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is made by the body as an intermediate step in making serotonin and eventually melatonin. It’s most commonly used to support those with mood issues, and may help those dealing with both mood and occasional sleeplessness. Try Natrol Time-Released 5-HTP.

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