We all know how important sleep is, but many of us underestimate how crucial good sleep is to our health. Most of us need at 7-8 hours of deep sleep every night to be optimally healthy. It is so easy to keep busy in the evening and then not get to bed until late, but then the alarm clock goes off in the morning and we have only gotten 6 hours or so. That is simply not enough.
We need sleep to recharge our brain. Research studies on sleep deprivation have clearly shown that cognitive function drops after only one night of insufficient sleep. When you chronically don’t sleep well, whether it is short duration or interrupted sleep, your brain just won’t work right during the day. Any new parent knows all too well the exhaustion and brain fog you have after feeding a newborn every few hours through the night. Workers that change shifts know that it takes time to acclimate and for a few days after shifting, you just don’t feel as mentally sharp and energetic.
What you may not know is that there is growing literature that chronic poor sleep can actually increase your risk for dementia! So it’s not just a matter of how well you feel the next day. Your brain health is at risk long term.
The other result of sleep deprivation is inflammation. Deep sleep causes your body and all your cells to rest, which is when they detoxify. Cells build up waste products of metabolism, and your body detoxifies when it is asleep. So if you don’t sleep well, you are more likely to have aches and pains, gut inflammation (digestive symptoms), or difficulties with your immune system.
Another sleep related issue is sleep apnea. Technically, sleep apnea is a mechanical issue in the upper airway, not a brain issue. However, your airway gets obstructed numerous times through the night, which causes a drop in oxygen levels. Over time, this stresses the heart and it has to work harder to push the oxygen-depleted blood around your body to get enough oxygen to the tissues. Over time, this increases your risk of congestive heart failure.
Spend some time evaluating your sleep habits. Ensure a consistent evening routine and sleep schedule, allowing 8 hours for sleep. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and avoid alcohol. Limit electronics, including television, in the evening. Stay away from social media and email in the evening. Make sure your bedroom is cool, has some air flow, and is quiet. You’ll sleep better and feel so much better during the day!