If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not alone. More than one-third of Americans are sleeping less than the recommended seven-hour minimum each night, according to the 2016 study in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) report. While you seemingly lay unconscious through most of it, sleep is the most important thing you do all day. Sleep affects all that you hold most dear in your waking hours, including your ability to function at work, be your best in various relationships and maintain your health.
Without plenty of good, quality sleep, the brain can’t function optimally. This includes diminished decision-making abilities, attention span and the speed needed to process new information. You know, all the functions needed for various daily activities, such as driving a car. In fact, from drowsy driving alone, there are more than 100,000 highway accidents each year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Another area of the body that needs its slumber is your endocrine system, the area governing your hormones, which includes the thyroid. The thyroid plays a significant role in emotional stability. Irritability, anger, depression and mental exhaustion are all symptoms of an imbalance which can be harmful to personal and professional relationships.
There is also a hormonal link between lack of sleep and what is commonly called stress. A lack of sleep and stress elicit the same symptoms. So if you’re feeling more stressed than usual, it could be your body’s way of saying, “head to bed.” Lack of sleep and stress both raise cortisol levels which, in the short term is good since it provides needed energy. However, over a prolonged period, raised levels of cortisol can result in a decrease of the growth hormone levels needed to repair the body.
While the body is in a constant state of healing, repairing and regenerating, this all happens best with the proper amount of sleep. By consistently lowering levels of growth hormone, you are systemically inhibiting your body’s natural ability to heal. This can make you more vulnerable to colds, flu, asthma and allergies as well as long-term conditions such as breast and colon cancer, heart disease, arthritis and hypertension. If you suffer from migraines, ulcers and eczema, don’t be surprised if symptoms are exacerbated when you don’t get enough Zzzs.
Trying to lose weight? Sleep is a must. Without it, the body stores energy that can lead to fat and glucose (sugar) cravings, which may result in weight gain and the cascading effects it can have on your health.
Sleep truly is the most important thing you do all day and the better your rest is each night the better you’ll feel and be able to function. In the coming weeks we will continue this blog series devoted to sleeps with tips for getting to sleep easier, staying asleep longer, and feeling more rested every day. And if you are looking to improve your sleep we’re here to help. Simply talk to your practitioner during your next appointment.