April 13, 2017
When we’re over-scheduled and find ourselves falling behind on our to-do list, sleep is usually the first thing we sacrifice to find more time in a day. Here's the reality – there’s always going to be something you need to catch up on. But is short-changing yourself on sleep truly without consequence?
Science tells us there are serious effects of poor sleep hygiene and it’s not just your mood, ability to concentrate, or general alertness — although those are certainly significant!
Losing a few hours of sleep has a serious impact on your health. And if you’re losing sleep more frequently you’re putting yourself at risk for serious health issues including heart disease and stroke.
Before the invention of electricity, scientists believed that the average person slept ten hours a night. I know, hard to believe, right? These days, we find it difficult, if not impossible to hit the recommended eight hours a night.
Your body needs time to recover, to grow, to repair tissue, and make hormones. But sleep is just as important for the mind. When you sleep, your brain restores itself and stores all of the information it gathered during that day into memories. Sleep is critical for brain function. That’s why people who are deprived of sleep for long periods of time can show signs of psychosis!
Ever heard the term “circadian rhythms?” Circadian rhythms are the patterns your body goes through in a day — in other words, your body clock.
These rhythms regulate the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin (among other things) and are based on the earth’s rotation. In fact, these rhythms have been ingrained in our DNA since the beginning of humanity.
Our bodies perform best when we follow our body clock, which makes it important to stick to a regular schedule of eating, sleeping, and exercising. Humans crave routine, so it’s no surprise that those who stick to regular schedules often live longer, healthier lives.
The more you stray from your body’s natural rhythms, the more stress your body feels, making you susceptible to disease, illness, and aging. It’s hard to escape biology!
If you suffer from insomnia (poor sleep quality, abnormal wakefulness, or the inability to sleep) you may be tempted to rely on prescription sleep aids or caffeine. The problem with that is those usually just address symptoms, not causes.
Try implementing some of these healthy sleep habits, and you may be surprised at how quickly you’ll see an improvement in the quality of your sleep. Sweet dreams!
If you’re tossing and turning at night and need some medical advice, use our Find a Doctor tool to locate a sleep medicine specialist or sleep disorder diagnostic center near you.*
Stay tuned for the next installment of The Road to Wellness, in which we will focus on your mental well-being. Want to catch up on previous Road to Wellness blogs? Read the whole Road to Wellness series.
*Check your health plan benefits for coverage.