Your Body Needs More Sleep And Ways To Fight Fatigue
Today’s on-the-run way of life has many people feeling harried, stressed, and very tired. Many patients complain of chronic fatigue only to learn that the five or six hours of sleep they get each night is not nearly enough to help their bodies recover and function at its best. Sleep disorders affect 50 to 70 million people in this country alone. Lack of sleep affects everything from depression and mood, concentration levels and hormone imbalance, to difficulty losing weight and the development of metabolic issues such as diabetes and hypertension.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 to 64 years get between seven to nine hours of restorative sleep every night to maintain their health. In my book, Finding Balance, an entire section is dedicated to sleep and how it works to not only help the body function optimally, but why it’s so important to long-term, overall good health.
The Dramatic Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Body
How does sleep deprivation really affect the body? Consider some of the things that happen when the body has to continually function on less than seven hours of sleep each night:
- The stress hormone cortisol increases throughout the day. Higher levels of stress hormones can lead to inflammation throughout the body.
- Weight loss becomes increasingly more difficult. Cravings for high-calorie foods actually increase when we lack sleep, putting a damper on healthy eating and diet efforts. People are hungrier when they sleep less, and many people find that poor sleep leads to weight gain. We actually burn less fat when we are sleep deprived.
- Several studies have shown that sleep debt and poor quality sleep is associated with chronic disease such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
- Concentration levels plummet. Staying up late to catch up on laundry or scroll through Facebook only to have the morning alarm sound five hours later results in decreased concentration levels the next day. Sleep deprivation causes people to feel foggy, and memory recall declines. People who are sleep deprived can perform 32% less efficiently than those who have healthy sleep patterns.
- Sleep debt lowers the immune system’s ability to fight infection. A basic cold may linger longer or turn into a more serious infection, for example.
5 Ways to Achieve a Better Night’s Sleep
To achieve better sleep, it’s important to make a few minor lifestyle changes and modify some of the bad habits that may contribute to poor sleep. The following are five ways everyone can help their bodies prepare for a better night’s sleep:
- Turn off devices at least one hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from smartphones, e-readers and televisions interfere with the body’s natural sleep hormones, causing people to stay awake longer.
- Focus on quieting the mind from the rigors of the day. Read a book in a dimly lit and quiet room. Decaffeinated, herbal tea is also soothing as well as calming in the evening.
- Avoid eating food or large meals too close to bedtime. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine in the afternoon.
- Whether it’s a walk during the day or an hour in the gym after work, exercise can help promote better sleep. However, try not to work-out too close to bedtime as this can actually disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and keep you up at night.
- Try gentle yoga before you turn in for the night. Yoga helps relax the body and the mind. A few gentle yoga stretches and deep breathing exercises can prepare the body for restorative sleep.
Learn more about benefits of sleep in the book Finding Balance: Empower Yourself with the Tools to Combat Stress and Chronic Illness.