Getting a good night’s sleep is important if we want to maintain healthy and productive lifestyles. Too often, however, we find ourselves caught up in work deadlines, family obligations or household projects and the time we should have been dedicating to sleep has managed to slip away from us.
This can create a seemingly endless cycle where we try to power through with a bit too much coffee by day and an inability to shake its effects by night. Our natural rhythm gets thrown off completely and feeling drained becomes the norm.
Lack of sleep can impact us in how we feel day by day, but it can also harm us in aspects of life that we may not have realized it could.
Feelings of Loneliness
According to a recent study published in Nature Communications, feelings of loneliness and social isolation can sometimes be attributed to lack of sleep. The reasons for this were two-fold. On one hand, the idea of going out and seeing friends can be the last thing we feel like doing when we’re exhausted. On the other, repeatedly showing up tired and acting withdrawn or unenthusiastic doesn’t inspire those close to us to seek us out in the future. The net result is a diminished sense of quality time with the people in our lives, which can be turned around by getting more consistent rest.
Dr. Epameinondas Fountas of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens, Greece conducted a meta analysis of 11 different sleep studies focusing on groups of participants who slept fewer than 6 hours and groups who slept greater than 8 hours per night. They were then compared to a control group who slept between those amounts nightly. The analysis showed that those in the outlying groups had a higher risk of suffering from a cardiovascular event, such as heart attack or stroke, than those who consistently got an optimal amount. Interestingly, those who fell into the sleep deprivation category boasted an 11% risk increase, while those who exceeded optimal sleep duration boasted a risk increase of 33%. Findings suggest that having a steady routine where you get neither too much nor too little nighttime rest is the best course.
Diet and exercise consistently make the news when it comes to Type II Diabetes, but lack of sleep has been shown to exacerbate the issue too. Simply put, consistently getting between 4 1/2 and 6 hours per night can cause our hormones to shift out of balance. Stress hormones like cortisol increase in order to help us stay awake during the day, while less insulin is secreted after a meal to aid in proper regulation of blood glucose. To make matters worse, our bodies crave carbohydrate and sugary foods when deprived of sleep and we are less likely to want to engage in physical activity – all of which increases our risk for Type II Diabetes.
While you may feel like you have the pain threshold of Hercules, studies show that your sensitivity to pain doubles when you’ve gotten fewer than your requisite 40 winks. Researchers believe that the findings show a correlation between sleep deprivation and the mechanism of pain perception that goes on in the brain.
Did you know lack of sleep can literally make you sick? Too little sleep affects our body systems. Much of the emphasis we usually see in literature about sleep deprivation is placed on how it effects our sympathetic nervous system. That’s the system that regulates the hormones related to fight or flight – which can put strain on your body and tax your system. But, if you’re the type of person who finds their parasympathetic system, which regulates the at-rest functions of digestion and salivation, is more impacted by inferior sleep – you can experience nausea and vomiting if you’re not clocking adequate mattress time.
What can you do?
Aiming for 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night consistently can help stave these and many other symptoms off – like general fatigue, lack of productivity and lack of concentration. The key is finding a routine, like a consistent bedtime, and sticking with it. Ensuring that your sleep space is comfortable, clean, functional and without overstimulating distractions, like televisions and computers, are also essential components of establishing a sleep routine that will aid in a healthy life. Of course, any good night of sleep is dependent heavily on your mattress, too.