Sleep is one aspect of life whose essence is often easily overlooked. You think about a ball game that you simply cannot miss. Yet it is taking place from midnight. You say, “Anything else counts not, but the game.” So you stay up late into the night watching it. 4.00 AM and you are not yet asleep, and it is the eve of a Monday!
You are in the news industry. As the editor, you have to leave the newsroom after everything newsworthy has been captured in the day’s paper. Or, you are sitting for your end semester exams that begin in the morning. You do not feel well backed so you stay up late going through your notes.
The list of reasons we give for not sleeping is long. Apparently when daytime comes you often feel that grumpiness and wish to lock yourself up in the office. If you are a student you always doze off in front of the computer or your books.
In other words, the lack of sleep takes away your productivity. Bad mood; you will not be the smiling face that draws even the most uninterested customer, no! Fatigued, you will not pay attention to details at all. You may easily miss out a very important detail. In that state your mind is always foggy and if it was an exam you were staying up late for, chances are that you might end up not producing much after all because you just cannot think that well.
Good thing, you can always catch a bed and compensate for the lost sleep so that you feel better again. At certain instances, you can always rush for a cup of coffee and keep up with the prevailing circumstance. But, have you ever asked yourself what that behavior of keeping sleep a distance away have on your health?
After missing sleep for some time, the mental effects of this sleeplessness become more serious. The fogging of your brain will become more pronounced, rendering it difficult for it to concentrate and make needed decisions. You will probably begin feeling down and may drop off at daytime. You also risk getting injuries and causing accidents at work or at home. If you drive, it is catastrophic!
Yet that is not it all! The range of health problems related to sleeplessness may surprise you if you realize them. You may probably not want to ever miss a night of sleep ever again over some series of night vigils or ball games, whatever your convincing reason is.
Poor Sleep patterns increase the risk for Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic autoimmune disease of the large intestine in which the gastrointestinal lining becomes inflamed and develops ulcers.
This is caused by an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. In patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria and other substances in the intestine for foreign or invading substances.
Ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine whereas Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract. In addition, both short and long durations of sleep have important health implications and are associated with increased overall mortality. You have probably experienced the bad mood thing, fatigue and tiredness associated with lack of sleep. But what you might have never realized is the long-term health consequences which include chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. And now you know that these conditions may lead to some really shortened life expectancy!
- Weight gain and obesity
Studies have found a link between no-sleep and weight problems. These people who deny themselves the essential requirement- sleep, are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) than normal. Such people are susceptible to obesity. But, how does this happen?
When you sleep less, it all begins with your appetite. It goes up! You may begin to eat uncontrollably, not because you want to or because your stomach becomes larger, no. This is something to do with the hormonal behavior in your system.
Leptin is the hormone that usually notifies the brain that you have eaten enough food and it is time to put food aside. This hormone apparently is secreted when we are asleep. Deny yourself the sleep and your appetite will have nothing to control it. Instead, you face the risk of higher levels of the hormone responsible for appetite stimulation: ghrelin.
Poor sleep therefore leads to uncontrolled food cravings that may eventually cause overweight as your body gains too much calories but is too tired to burn them off through exercise.
The little sleep may also upset the balance of other related hormones, for instance, little sleep will result in an increased production of cortisol. Hormone cortisol is normally referred to as the stress hormone. The secretion of insulin hormone may also increase following a poor sleep. Insulin which regulates glucose processing while promoting fat storage will therefore exist in large quantities, a condition that is associated with weight gain. This is a risk factor for diabetes.
- Immunity failure
With the altered behavior of the endocrine system, the body’s defense mechanism against infections is likely to be highly affected. This augments to the reason why doctors recommend bed rest for people who are sick. When you sleep, your body’s immunity has the advantage over invading microbes.
How do you identify a disturbed sleep then?
The signs and symptoms of a disturbed sleep include constantly feeling tired ranging from mild to severe cases, an irritable temper and feelings of moodiness, you could lose concentration and at times feel hallucinations and even memory loss, loss of coordination is common; and in severe cases the individual may encounter auto accidents. Other symptoms and signs include relationship problems, loss of appetite, absenteeism or tiredness at work and use of stimulants.
How do you build good sleeping habit?
You could improve your sleep hygiene by establishing a regular bed time. You constantly retire to bed when that time reaches. It involves going to bet a specific time and waking up at an established regular time. For adults this interval should be about 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
You may also get rid of stimulants in your routine. Do not go for caffeine to boost your level of alertness. If you feel drowsy, just get yourself a nap. The rest will come later. In addition, you need a regular exercise schedule to get you tired so you can get some deep sleep.
When you are ready to go to bed, avoid computer games, TV or watching movies. These will rip you of your sleep. Other healthy steps include an improved diet and a cool sleep environment.
AwareMed uses the cognitive behavioral therapy as one of the principal treatments for insomnia and sleep disorders for our patients. This treatment is non-pharmacologic and addresses the sleep problems at the psychological and behavioral levels. Part of these include the above mentioned behaviors.