In fact in an interview I recently watched she likened this sleep crisis to smoking in the 60’s in that the research is telling us now how bad it is for our health but yet everybody seems to be ignoring it.
Think about it…when was the last time you got really good nights sleep and woke up feeling energized and refreshed?
If you said last night or every night then this maybe article is not for you but if you are like myself and the many millions that can’t remember then read on.
Many of us accept a lack of sleep and low energy levels as a part of life as an adult.
We figure we just have to learn to function feeling tired. However, not getting enough sleep is a problem that many people don’t don’t take seriously enough.
Most of us forfeit our sleeping hours to earn an extra penny or because of stress. In the long run, serious health repercussions may cost us more than we’d calculated.
Therefore in this article I want to discuss the importance of sleep, what sleep deprivation is exactly, its health effects, how to best overcome it and of course how eating a Paleo style diet can improve your quality of sleep.
Importance of sleep
Sleep is an important aspect of our lives but recent statistics show that most of us get less than six hours per night on average and ¾ of people experience trouble sleeping a few times every week.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that insufficient sleep is a public health problem with 7-19% of adults being faced with the problem of sleep depravity.
Furthermore, 40% of the adults have reported incidences where they have fallen asleep unknowingly during the day at least once in a given month.
The number of Americans suffering from chronic sleep deficiency is estimated to be about 50 to 70 million.
But is not getting enough quality sleep that big of a deal?
In fact, it is,sleep helps to restore each and every part of our bodies. Here is an great infographic from the huffington post with our overview of the impact that sleep has on the various systems in the body.
The Central Nervous System
The brain fails to function properly when we deprive our body of sleep. Sleep depravity exhausts the brain, and this minimizes its performance. Sluggishness and yawning will characterize your lack of sleep and its effect on the central nervous system. Short and long term memory can be affected due to this disorder, causing disruptions to normal functioning. Hallucinations can also occur when you leave this condition unchecked for long.
The Immune System
Protective cytokines and antibodies which help the body to fight infection are usually produced when you are asleep. Depriving yourself of enough sleep will undoubtedly lower your body’s defense mechanisms. A body that is deprived of sleep takes longer to recover from infections and is more susceptible to them in the first place.
The Respiratory System
Respiratory problems can result from a sleep disorder because of the direct connection that sleep deprivation has with your immune system. Existing respiratory illnesses can be worsened by lack of sufficient sleep.
Digestive System and Metabolism
Weight gain can be directly linked to your sleeping habits.The processing and storage of carbohydrates are affected by the amount of sleep we tend to have. This is because a lack of sleep impacts the hormones which regulate glucose metabolism and appetite. For example the leptin hormone released by the brain usually alerts the body that you have had enough to eat.If this hormone is not functioning properly due to lack of sleep, this can result in harder to control eating habits.
The Cardiovascular System
Prolonged sleep depravity poses health risks to your cardiovascular system too. Since sleep is important for the repair and healing of blood vessels as well as you heart, lack of sufficient sleep will limit your vessel’s healing ability. The Harvard Medical School observes that lacking a good night’s sleep can increase chances of you getting hypertension and high blood pressure.
Memory and cognition
Having a good night’s sleep can help your brain to commit whatever information you may have accessed during the day to the mind. The process by which our brain can achieve this is known as memory consolidation. Various studies support the fact that if you sleep optimally after studying, there are higher chances of you passing your exams. Furthermore, we must be well rested in order to think clearly and process information while awake.
I think we have all experienced that “waking up on the wrong side of bed day” where nothing feels right,we are easily stressed and our outlook on the world is far from positive. Experiencing this once in a while is normal but chronic of restorative sleep can lead to poor mental health that puts pressure on relationships both personal and professional.
When you are deprived of sleep, a condition known as sleep debt occurs. This can lead to waves of uncontrollable tiredness that may send you to sleep when it is not appropriate. Think about all the stories we hear of car accidents and work injuries that were caused by lack of sleep. The truth is if you have serious sleep debt you are not at your sharpest and therefore far more likely to have some type of accident.
I think it is clear that poor sleeping habits on a regular basis is not very good for our health.
As a result, a significant decrease in quality of life often occurs. In order to change something, we have to identify the problem, so let’s take a closer look at what sleep deprivation is and what causes it.
What is sleep deprivation?
Obviously, as the name suggests, sleep deprivation is when you are deprived of sleep. It is an actual condition for those who do not get enough sleep and it can range from acute to chronic.
The signs of a chronic condition include clumsiness, fatigue, sleepiness, weight loss, or weight gain. To better understand the problem of sleep deprivation, it could help to take a look at sleep itself.
What goes on during sleep and why is it so important?
There are two types of sleep that our body experiences, namely; Rapid Eye Movement and Non-Rapid Eye Movement. We go through a serious of sleep stages throughout the night which occur in 90-minute cycles on average.
The first stage is very light and we experience it as being between awake and asleep. When we enter stage 2, we are in the onset of sleep so we disengage with our surroundings, our body temperature declines, but our breathing and heart rate remains the same.
Next, we enter stages 3 and 4 which offer the deepest and most restorative sleep stages. These are the source of our restored energy when hormones are released, the blood supply to our muscles increases, tissue growth and repair occurs, and our blood pressure and breathing rate slows.
The last step is REM which takes up ¼ of the night. It usually occurs after about an hour and a half of sleeping and occurs for a short period. It then reoccurs every 90 minutes for longer periods each time. During REM sleep dreams occur, eyes dart back and forth, and energy is given to the brain and body to support daytime activities.
With this basic understanding of sleep, imagine if you keep waking up during regular intervals in the night.
You would never enter those deeper stages of sleep where the actual restoration occurs.
Missing out on sleep is like filling up a backpack with bricks. Every day you add more and more bricks and pretty soon you will be so bogged down, you can’t function physically, mentally, or emotionally.
That makes it really hard to give you best to your loved ones or to achieve the things you want in life.
How much sleep do people need?
Well, every person is different but on average the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says that adults need 7-8 hours per night, teenagers need 9-10 hours, school aged children need 10 hours, preschool aged children need 11-12 hours, and newborns need 16-18 hours.
As we age our amount of restorative sleep decreases, so older people will often feel tired more easily.
Causes of sleep deprivation
There are various causes of sleep deprivation which range from voluntary to involuntary. Let’s take a look at the different possibilities.
·Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can be caused by anxiety or neurochemical problems in the part of the brain that control the sleep/wake cycle.
·Certain stimulant drugs can induce a state that deprives a person of sleep.
·Voluntary sleep deprivation can come as a result of certain types of work as well as undergoing a college education. Jobs which require night shifts or long hours such as driving trucks, care giving, being an EMT, or being a police officer are a few examples. Further, students in colleges/universities have reported reduced amounts of sleep due to studying.
·Stress and anxiety can cause sleep disorders.
·Sleep apnea causes breathing difficulties which continuously disrupt a person’s sleep throughout the night
·Having newborn children can cause sleep deprivation
·Obesity can make sleeping uncomfortable and can cause breathing difficulties which reduce the quality of sleep a person experiences.
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
How do you know if you are sleep deprived? Here are a few of the symptoms:
· Feeling drowsy or tired throughout the day
· Falling asleep immediately after laying down
· Dosing off during the day into the micro sleep we mentioned earlier
· Feeling emotionally unstable or low
· Experiencing foggy, unclear thinking
· Caffeine doesn’t give you the boost you need
· Alcohol effects stronger than they used to be
· You are constantly getting sick
· Your work performance is lacking
· You are having difficulty managing the relationships in your life
Children who suffer from the sleep disorder may exhibit tendencies of over activeness, and you may notice their lack of ability to pay attention.
If your kids have this condition, you should seek professional help as soon as you start observing a downward trend in their academics and behavioral characteristics.
How to stop and prevent sleep deprivation
Although sleep deprivation has become a common issue, there is hope. It is worth noting that most of the effects of sleep deprivation such as sleep debt, are reversible as long as you take action before a serious illness develops.
Among the various remedies to sleep deprivation includes
Go to sleep when you feel tired in the evening. Most of us will try to ignore this “body clock alarm” and continue with our activities without considering the serious health repercussions we may be subjecting to ourselves.
Set a schedule for bedtime and wake-up time and stick to it as close as possible every day. This may be tough at first but will help you reach your recommended hours of sleep. For the best possible sleep the earlier you can go to bed before midnight the better.
Try not eat a meal less than two ideally three hours before you sleep. This is because giving the body two hours to digest the food will provide maximum relaxation to all the body organs when you eventually go to sleep. It is also important to eat foods that will be easily digested.
Eat a diet rich in natural foods. It is important to eat a diet full of vitamins and nutrients that helps you maintain a relatively steady blood sugar level.
The Paleo diet is a great way to do so. This will keep your body functioning properly and will help to avoid the chance of waking up in the night in response to a blood sugar drop. You can also help to bring on sleep by eating foods at dinner that contain magnesium and zinc. I would also suggest using a zinc and magnesium supplement as well to ensure you are getting an optimal amount.
Eating Paleo can also help you lose weight which in turn will help you sleep better. The more overweight you are the more stress you out on your internal organs, nervous system and create hormone imbalances that are not conducive to good sleep.
Stop staring at devices and screens an hour before bed and leave all phones etc out of the bedroom. Staring at screens interferes with sleeping patterns while having phones close by can cause disruptions to sleep if message alerts etc are constantly going off in the night. Instead of screen watching consider engaging in another activity such as reading so as to “invite sleep,” or maybe get intimate with yout partner. Now there is a thought!
A regular exercise program is highly recommended. Activities such as walking, cycling, weight training and swimming are great for helping you sleep better. Sleep is where all the repair and regeneration from doing exercise takes place so if you do lead an active lifestyle good quality sleep is essential if you want to recover properly and progress with your performance.
However it is important to note that exercise is a stressor itself so if you are doing lots of intense and long duration exercise on top of leading a stressful and busy life it can actually increase the chances of poor sleep as your nervous system becomes overloaded. Therefore if you are continually stressed out keep your workouts short and intense and mix in less stressful activities such as walking or yoga.
Limit stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine. A quick rule of thumb is stop drinking caffeine 10 hours before you go to sleep and stop drinking alcohol 3 hours before going to bed.
Try keeping your room at low temperatures, comfortable, optimally dark and quiet.
Better Sleep Means a Better Quality of Life
Many of us take sleep for granted until we aren’t able to get it. Then we understand its value and importance. As we reviewed, getting our full cycles of sleep each night is crucial to restoring our brain and body for the next day. If we don’t get this sleep, each system of our bodies will eventually feel the consequences.
The longer you wait to take action and get the sleep you need, the more serious the health consequences will be. So it is crucial to take the time to identify what is causing your lack of sleep.
It is not something that can be brushed off as “normal” but needs a change to be made so you restore your body to a healthier state and get more enjoyment out of life.
As we stated diet and exercise are significant contributors to better sleep so why not test this out over the next 7 days?
Download our free 7 day paleo meal and and exercise plan and not only enjoy better sleep but increased energy and sharper mental focus. You might even lose a couple of pounds as well. Just click the image below to get access now.