Urban life today is notable for its hectic pace, with meetings, activities and travel filling our days and even nights. This hectic lifestyle comes at a heavy cost when we sacrifice sound sleep to keep up with our careers and activities. While going without adequate sleep for a short time might not affect our health adversely, over the long term, it can have a significant effect on our physical and mental health. Many of us complain about insomnia and an inability to get adequate rest through sleep but we fail to realize that sleep problems originate from the lack of a proper sleep routine.
The time we sleep is the time during which our bodies recover from the rigors of the day and prepare for the next day. Lack of sleep can make you tired, irritable and affect your concentration to such an extent that it would be dangerous for you to drive or carry out activities which require some level of mental input.
We may take dreams lightly but scientific research has indicated dreaming plays a key role in our mental health. During our dreams, our subconscious mind deals with whatever niggling worries we might have about our previous day. Lack of REM (Repeated Eye Movement) sleep the stage of sleep, during which we dream has been linked higher prevalence of depression, anxiety disorders and other serious mental illnesses. This is the stage of sleep that is close to the end of the sleep cycle when our eyelids twitch and move, unlike deep sleep. We should get adequate REM sleep every day in order to function at our best the next day.
What Happens when you do not get Adequate sleep?
1. Lack of Sleep Affects Your Focus
Not getting enough sleep for even one night can significantly affect your ability to focus, your general alertness and problem solving skills. If this happens on a regular basis, this could have a more long-term effect on your mental development and intelligence levels.
2. There is Higher Risk of Accidents
Driver distraction is one of the primary causes of traffic accidents and research has shown that lack of sleep leads to more workplace injuries. When you do take to the road without adequate sleep, you are putting yourself and others at risk as being tired behind the wheel is equivalent to being drunk. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driver fatigue is the cause or significant factor in more than 100,000 car crashes and in over 1,500 road related deaths every year.
3. Heart Disease and Diabetes
Those who have insomnia are at higher risk of cardiac issues like cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack. A recent study published in the European Heart Journal said that insomniacs are three times more likely to develop heart failure over an 11 year period. Studies have found links to higher rates of diabetes as well.
4. Lack of Sleep can contribute to obesity
The UAE already is grappling with very high levels of obesity, with obesity rates in the UAE double the world average. It has been found that regularly getting less than six hours a night can increase hunger and appetite, especially when it comes to so called junk foods. These promote excessive insulin secretion and lead to body fat storage. Those who regularly sleep less than six hours were almost 30 per cent more likely to become obese. This makes a strong case for getting the recommended eight hours of sleep a day.
5. Lack of Sleep can Make You Look and Feel Older
Lack of sleep can make you feel really stressed next morning and the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in your blood increase. High levels of this hormone over the long-term breaks down collagen which keeps our skin smooth and unlined and you end up with more wrinkles, poor skin tone and fine lines. When you get deep sleep, this repairs your skin and other tissues and your body releases optimal amounts of human growth hormone. This keeps your skin firm and helps you retain muscle tone.
6. Lack of Sleep Makes you More Forgetful
It is believed that your mind organizes your experiences during the day for future access during the time you sleep. If you don’t sleep well, you are likely to have trouble remembering what you did yesterday.
7. Depression and Sleep
Insomnia has been linked to developing depression. Those who don’t sleep well are five times more likely to experience depression.
What Happens if you get Adequate Sleep
1. You are more Energetic
When you get more sleep, you are less likely to want a cup of java to kickstart your day. You will be more energetic and focused.
2. Less Stress
When you get more sleep, there will be less cortisol and adrenaline in your system and you will be more calm and relaxed
3. You will be Healthier
Lack of sleep can depress your immune system and make you more vulnerable to health issues and various diseases. Your immune system will work more effectively in protecting you from the attack of pathogens and problems within your body if you get enough rest. That is why doctors say rest can be as effective or sometimes more effective than medicines in recovering from disease.
4. Body is in Better Shape
There will be more time for the body to repair itself from the damage caused by dietary and environmental pollutants as this is done during sleep at the cellular level.
5. You Will be Smarter
Who does not want to be smarter? When you are alert and fresh after getting adequate rest, you can easily remember and act on information and experiences of previous days. You will make better decisions faster, solve problems and be bright and cheery. This is why staying up at night before an exam makes no sense.
6. You have better chances of losing weight
Lack of sleep upsets your body rhythm and hormonal balance. Getting enough sleep can help you keep hunger pangs at bay. Besides as every dieter knows, most of the pounds we pile on can be attributed to late night snacking and couch surfing.
7. Sleep can Make Your Happier
When you sleep, your body manages to balance all the hormones and chemicals such that you are calm and happy. Lack of sleep affects your mood and emotions, so forego your sleep only for something really worthwhile.
How Much Sleep?
Experts say that ideally, you should sleep between seven and nine hours. Less than six hours per day on a regular basis can affect your health. So does sleeping over nine hours. The key is to strike the right balance.
It is recommended that we should go to bed earlier as our cortisol levels are normally at their lowest by 11 pm and it is easier to fall asleep before this time. If we regularly go to bed at round the same, our body gets used to this and sets its own internal clock. We will not need an alarm to wake up. Try getting better sleep for one or two weeks, and when you see the difference it makes to your life, you will never want to stay up late again, for any reason.
Manju Mathew, an MBA in marketing, completed publisher training courses from the Oxford Brookes University and New York University. She started with marketing and PR roles before moving on to her current position as a full time writer. Currently living in Dubai, her life as an expat has sharpened her observation skills and flair for writing. She enjoys writing about luxury cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc even if she can only dream of owning them.
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