Getting in the Zs. How sleep deprivation is affecting your health

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Before we can start looking at what sleep deprivation is doing to your body it’s important to understand that different people need different amounts of sleep to operate effectively.  While some folks, particularly older adults, seem to be more resistant to the effects of sleep deprivation, others, especially children and young adults, are more vulnerable.  Take a look at the recommended number of hours of shut-eye you should be getting according to the US National Sleep Foundation

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Fair enough, but what does too little sleep really mean for my body?

Well there are a host of effects that burning the midnight oil can mean for your overall health.  These include:

  • Compromised immunity.  That’s right! Not getting enough sleep prevents the body from strengthening the immune system and being able to fight infection. This can mean a person can take longer to recover from illness as well as having an increased risk of chronic and respiratory illness.
  • Risk of obesity.  A lack of sleep can affect body weight. Two hormones in the body, leptin and ghrelin, control feelings of hunger and fullness.  The levels of these hormones are affected by sleep, which means those munchies may have more to do with your sleep than your willpower.
  • Type 2 Diabetes. Sleep deprivation also causes the release of insulin, which leads to increased fat storage and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart health. Sleep helps the heart vessels to heal and rebuild as well as affecting processes that maintain blood pressure and sugar levels. Sleep also helps your body with inflammation control so by not sleeping enough you’re increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease significantly.
  • Hormone imbalances. Insufficient sleep can affect hormone production, including growth hormones and testosterone in men.
  • Mental health.  There are a myriad of ways that sleep deprivation impacts on your mental health.  From lack of concentration to affecting your mood, the effects on the brain are probably the most obvious and widely experienced.

What to do if you are sleep deprived.

  • It is perfectly normal to have changes in your sleep patterns due to life events, stress, menopause etc., but if it’s becoming the norm to spend the night staring at the ceiling, it may be time to try some of these ways to restore your sleep patterns:
  • Relaxation techniques: This easy to do method involves progressive muscle relaxation involving tensing and relaxing different muscles in the body to help calm the body. Meditation and breathing exercises can also help your body to unwind after a long day.
  • Stimulation control: This involves controlling pre-bedtime activities and surroundings to moderate the sleeping pattern. That means spending time relaxing without your phone or laptop before bedtime.
  • Medication:  In extreme cases, you may need to see your doctor who will prescribe a short term medication to help you restore your sleep patterns.