Everyone has experienced a bad night’s sleep at one stage or another, some of us more frequently than others. So we can all relate to the struggle that tends to follow a night of tossing and turning; feelings of drowsiness, reduced focus, increased irritability, nausea, headaches and cravings are just some of the ways we can be affected when we don’t get the sleep we need.
Although a stint of reduced sleep is anything but fun, it is quickly remedied by a solid night of shut eye. Unfortunately, many of us suffer from long term sleep issues, such as irregular and broken sleep or simply not getting enough of it on a nightly basis. The issues that arise from longer periods of insufficient sleep can be more serious. The WHO has linked inadequate amounts of sleep to several chronic diseases including heart disease, kidney disease and high blood pressure, while increasing evidence suggests that a lack of sleep is one of the leading drivers in issues such as obesity and depression.
We don’t fully understand why sleep is so crucial for our overall health and wellness. It seems that the time of reduced activity is crucial for brain development and immune system maintenance. While we sleep our bodies perform a lot of important functions, including processing and storing information for learning as well as increased repair of old or damaged cells. When we fail to sleep enough at night we disrupt this process. Along with these internal issues, external and more immediate dangers arise when we don’t sleep enough. Drowsy driving is believed to cause 100,000 car accidents each year in the USA alone, and you are significantly more likely to experience a workplace accident if you don’t get your 8 hours of shut eye.
Please note, we have no intention of scaremongering you all into getting your 8 hours of sleep each night. We wouldn’t imagine that scaring someone to sleep is particularly effective. However, it is important to understand that sleep has a significant impact on our mental and physical health. It is equally as important to well rounded health as our diet and our physical activity, and should be treated as such. Much like nutrition and exercise there are steps we can take to ensure we are maximising the benefits of sleep and using it to feel our best.