A ‘Catastrophic’ lack of sleep in modern society is killing us, warns leading sleep scientist Matthew Walker. Other scientists agree that sleep deprivation is having a massive impact on many people, taking a toll on every aspect of our biology. Furthermore, a lack of sleep is linked to many severe conditions, such as obesity, heart conditions, diabetes, cancer, and poor mental health. Mathew Walker, a Professor of Neuroscience, goes into much greater detail in his book “Why We Sleep.”
What are the Effects of Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation refers to regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep a night. It is steadily becoming one of the most common health concerns of the 21st century. However, many still don’t acknowledge it as an issue. Why? The work-life balance (or the lack thereof) often leads individuals to believe that there is no other way to get all the daily obligations and chores done. Some cultures even promote the idea that the less you sleep, the more productive you are. You’ve probably heard it said before, “I don’t have time to sleep!” or even worse, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”
Interestingly, what we need to be as effective and productive as possible is a healthy sleep pattern. No matter how many coffees we may drink to keep us going, not getting enough sleep makes us groggy and forgetful. But more than that, sleep deprivation can seriously compromise our health in several ways. For example, our blood sugar levels can be disrupted, which will increase the risk of suffering from diabetes. It also increases the risk of suffering from clogged arteries, which can lead to strokes.
Other genetic issues that have been linked to sleep deprivation include infertility, irregular menstruation, premature aging, and erectile dysfunction. On the other hand, a good night’s sleep increases the health of our immune system and helps our body and brain repair; that is why sleep hygiene is a crucial factor in the programs we offer at our clinic. In fact, our Health and Wellness Program specifically addresses issues related to sleep management.
To learn more, click here.
You Are What You Drink
There are several steps to fight this issue and get back to a good sleep pattern. However, first, we must work on our caffeine and alcohol dependency. We often say, “you are what you eat.” But the same is also true with what we drink, how much, and when. For example, to rest well at night, we should avoid drinking caffeinated beverages after 5 pm so that our body has time to break down the caffeine before we go to bed. If not, we may still be stimulated, and our body and brain remain set in “wake mode” at a time that we want (or need) to sleep. So, opt for herbal teas in the evening as these can help you feel more restful as you approach the night hours and contribute to deeper sleep.
Also, it would be best to reduce your intake of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is also a stimulant. In moderation, it’s fine (for most), but regularly consuming large amounts of alcohol can affect our sleep patterns negatively. We may be in bed with our eyes closed, but we may not be getting the deep, restful sleep our bodies require.
How to Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Once we have our drinking habits under control, the next step is to stick to a strict sleep routine. You have probably noticed that many smartphones now come with additional features that help you monitor and track your sleep hours. The goal is to wake up and go to bed at more or less the same time each day.
Your sleeping environment is also vital. Experts suggest that the bedroom should be a cool, dark place, free of electronic devices. Furthermore, watching TV or using phones when in bed or soon before going to bed can be detrimental as the blue light emitted by the screen restrains melatonin production. As you already know, eating unhealthy foods has numerous threats to our health but can also affect how quickly you fall asleep and how long you stay asleep.
Combat Sleep Deprivation with Movement and Sunlight
If you lead quite a sedentary life, it might be time to make a change. Although those long hours in the office, in front of the computer, may make you feel tired, you are not guaranteed a good night’s sleep at the end of the day. Regular exercise is the key to getting deep and restful sleep. According to the sleep foundation, exercise can “increase sleep quality for adults by reducing sleep onset – or the time it takes to fall asleep – and decrease the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night.”
Getting enough sun, especially early in the day, can also have a good impact on our sleep patterns. Although many people love the “nightlife” – whether being out in the town or at home watching Netflix to the wee hours of the night – research suggests that we are designed to be awake in the day and asleep at night. Interestingly, studies have revealed that daylight, in a sense, communicates with our body, specifically our circadian rhythm, and tells it that now is the time to be awake and enjoy the day. As night approaches, the reduction of light notifies our bodies that “sleep time” is on its way. As mentioned earlier, sleep has become a luxury – rather than a need – for many. So to help you get into a healthy pattern, try and get some early morning sun, perhaps, if possible, by going for an early walk before starting work.
A Restful Mind Equals A Restful Body
Our thoughts could be robbing us of valuable rest and sleep. Many people lay down in bed and think for hours on end about everything and anything. The more intense or stressful the thought, the less likely you will get to sleep. If you struggle in this area, several relaxation techniques may help. For example, some benefit from keeping a journal and writing down their thoughts before going to bed. The act of writing down your thoughts, in a sense, tells your brain that those particular thoughts are now filed and stored and are no longer relevant at this moment, so there is no need to keep ruminating on them. Thus making it easier to disconnect, let go, and get some rest.
For more tips and advice, read our article The Power of Journaling.
“Sleep restocks the armory of our immune system, helping prevent infection, and warding off all manner of sickness,” explains Matthew Walker. Therefore, it is vital to take sleep seriously. It is not simply a pit stop between days, but rather it is a gift that contributes immensely to our health, wellness, and even our happiness.
So, make sleep a priority. Just as you find the time to eat when you’re hungry, you should make enough time to sleep. As mentioned, anything less than seven hours a night is defined as sleep deprivation. Therefore, if possible, try to maintain a strict sleep regime. Avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoons and evenings, and do your best to reduce your alcohol intake. Make your bedroom a “No-Tech Zone.” Put your phone in airplane mode and get in the habit of reading before bed rather than watching TV. Yes, make sleep a priority. Your health will thank you for it.
At the Budwig Center, we often find that we can help ones that need better quality sleep or that have trouble falling asleep with solutions such as:
- natural, herbal based remedies
- biomagnetic pair sessions
- breathing exercises
- and even EFT!
Contact us if you want to know more about how we can help you get deeper and better quality sleep.