If this sounds like you, you're in good company. Most of us have had the odd night of poor sleep, and that's part of life. But if you regularly skimp on sleep, or find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep, improving your sleep will be one of the best things you ever do for yourself.
To inspire you to get your sleep sorted, here are eleven amazing, science-based benefits of getting enough sleep.
Reduced risk of chronic disease
Studies have shown a link between not getting enough sleep and an increased risk of heart attacks, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer. Inadequate sleep can increase your blood sugar levels and also increase your insulin resistance -- even if you are thin. Although it's likely that you'd need to sleep poorly for years in order to increase your risk of chronic disease, one study did show increased blood sugar levels after just four days of inadequate sleep. So if you are having trouble sleeping, don't delay -- get help now.
Do you get frequent colds and flus? Inadequate sleep could be affecting your immunity. A pilot study has indicated that seven hours of sleep or less per night may make you more susceptible to the common cold. The flip side -- eight hours or more of quality sleep makes you more resistant to infection.
Better sex life
Are you and your partner always too tired to have sex? It may sound obvious, but are you getting enough sleep? Apart from making you feel tired, poor sleep can lead to lower testosterone levels, which can negatively affect sex drive. So if your libido is low, consider going to bed together – for an early night of good sleep!
Relief from pain
Apart from bringing a blissful respite from pain, adequate sleep reduces both acute and chronic pain during waking hours. Getting good quality sleep can even reduce the need for pain medication. Unfortunately being in pain can make it very difficult to sleep. If pain is keeping you awake, pain management will be an important first step towards getting you sleeping again.
Lower risk of accidents
You’ve heard about the dangers of driving drowsy. Not sleeping causes a similar impairment to alcohol, negatively affecting your judgment and motor control. But what we don’t often think about is that poor sleep also affects our risk of other kinds of accidents, like falls, for example.
Inadequate sleep tends to make us irritable. This is because it affects our ability to regulate our emotions, and leads to more extreme and less controllable emotions. Additionally, people who do not get enough sleep have more symptoms of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. If you're having trouble with your moods, improving your sleep can only help.
Better weight management
Apart from making you too tired to exercise or cook a healthy meal, sleeping poorly increases your appetite. One of the major hormones that controls appetite, leptin, drops with lack of sleep, leaving you hungry, particularly for high calorie foods.
Long-term, poor sleep can lead to significant weight gain. A Harvard Medical School study indicated that women who get 5 hours of sleep or less are 32 per cent more likely to gain 60kg or more as they get older, compared to women who slept for 7 hours or more. Note that this is regardless of how much the women ate -- women who ate more but also slept more gained less weight than women who ate less and slept less.
Poor sleep negatively impacts our ability to think clearly, concentrate and make decisions. Interestingly, it is also associated with making riskier financial decisions. If you're looking to make a big purchase or investment, you might want to sleep on it first.
People who sleep better have better short-term memories. Part of the role of sleep is to process and store memories from the previous day. Not getting enough sleep, or not getting good quality sleep, may prevent your memories from being stored properly. Evidence also suggests that you may even develop false memories as a result of poor sleep.
Better personal appearance
Surprisingly, there is actually some science behind the concept of ‘beauty rest’. Studies indicate that people who only get four or five hours of sleep per night undergo metabolic changes that are similar to those that occur in normal ageing. This is thought to be related to lower levels of growth hormone, which are produced by the body during deep sleep to aid tissue repair. Growth hormone is responsible for keeping muscles and skin healthy. If you’re starting to look a little ragged around the edges, it could be time to improve your sleep.
And there you have it -- 11 amazing ways in which getting enough sleep can change your life.
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, book in with one a Naturopath at Empowered Health. We are experts in natural sleep solutions and can help you get the sleep you need to be healthy, happy and well!
Gauri Yardi, Naturopath, specialises in digestive and skin disorders but recognises that sleep is an important part of health. Often without sleep, the body won’t heal and repair as quickly as it could. To see Gauri about your sleep, call 1300 21 44 25.
Book in for a Consultation at Empowered Health!