Did you know that getting enough sleep is even more critical to your health than following a strict diet or daily exercise routine?
Quality sleep is the foundation for good health in order to rebuild tissues, replenish cells and reclaim lost energy.
While you’re sleeping, your body is hard at work mopping up the toxins you have accumulated during the day. Your systems are busy replacing cells, repairing damaged tissues and restoring your energy supply. Sleep gives you the time to heal and recover so you can take on the next day! So, you need to prioritise it - as not getting enough sleep can have long-term negative effects on your health, including the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, depression and even cancer.
As crazy as this may sound, as soon as you wake, your body is already preparing for sleep.
While you are awake, your body produces a chemical called adenosine which adds up consistently throughout the day and eventually causes drowsiness signalling that you’re ready for bed.
Your sleep and its daily relationship with wakefulness are controlled by two systems: your biological clock - otherwise known as your circadian rhythm - and your sleep drive. Your circadian rhythm is the biochemical cycle that repeats roughly every 24 hours and governs sleep, wake time, hunger, body temperature, hormone release, and other subtle rhythms that blend with the 24-hour day. Your sleep drive – which is the need for sleep - dictates the amount and intensity of sleep you need based on how long you’ve been awake.
Think of your sleep drive like hunger - it builds throughout the day until it is satisfied.
A lack of sleep can greatly impact your immune system, which serves as your body’s defence mechanism, protecting you from foreign invaders looking to divide and conquer. Without proper sleep, your immune system can become weakened and have trouble fighting off invaders. This can cause you to get sick more often and suffer through a slower recovery time when you do.
Lack of sleep can also propel your circadian rhythms get out of sync and begin to harm your hormone levels.
Hormones regulate everything from menstrual cycle to your hunger levels. For example, when your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it can disrupt your body’s ability to know when it’s satisfied, meaning you may notice the numbers on the scale slowly creeping up as your body craves more energy from food because you're exhausted. Your body may also be too tired to exercise, leading to a vicious circle of stagnation!
The hormones responsible for making you feel full or hungry (leptin and ghrelin) can get out of sync, causing you to feel hungrier than you should. Sleep can also affect the insulin, a hormone in your body, responsible for keeping your blood sugar level in check. If that’s not enough damage, hormones that regulate fertility can impact your ability to conceive a child.
When it comes to children, the loss of sleep can affect the function of a region of the brain known as the hypothalamus, which regulates appetite and the release of energy. Children and teenagers may be at the highest risk for memory issues because they need greater amounts of sleep while their bodies are still growing.
If you’re feeling overweight, groggy or are suffering from a sleep disorder, it’s hard to remember that your emotional wellbeing is just as important as your physical health. While some physical ailments, like obesity and cancer, can take many years to reach their peak, sleeplessness is a major cause of concern for sudden disasters, workplace hazards, and car accidents. In fact, drowsy driving can be just as bad as drink driving.
By knowing what’s causing you to lose sleep, you can come up with a plan to counter the effects of sleep deprivation as it is one of life’s necessities and vital for our long term health and longevity.