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Sarah Cummings
Sarah Cummings
By: Sarah Cummings

We all know sleep is good for us. Yet so few of us treat our bedtimes with the respect they deserve. Study after study has told us that the quality of our sleep is essential to the quality of our physical and mental health. However just as we are beginning to fathom exactly how important sleep is to almost every facet of our existence as a society we have never slept worse.

The fast-paced modern world our addiction to screens is playing havoc with our sleep patterns. Sleep disorders are affecting more and more of us, with insomnia being the most common culprit, the result is a ticking time bomb of health problems.

Read on to find out just how bad sleep deprivation can be for us…

Physical Health

Every single one of us has had a really bad night’s sleep at one stage or another. It doesn’t feel great does it?

With a heavy head, bags under our eyes and no energy, it can be an almighty struggle to make it through the day. Missing one night’s sleep is a pain but it won’t do you much harm. Missing sleep on a regular basis however can have a big impact on both your physical wellbeing. While we sleep our body goes into action and repairs our cells from the hardships of the day. Processes such as the production of cytokines takes place. These are the little guys who help run our immune system and fight off bacteria and viruses.

Chronic sleep-deprivation gets in the way of such processes and leaves us more susceptible to illness. In the short term this will result in individuals suffering from more infections such as the common cold and flu. In the long-term however an impaired immune system increases the risk of a whole host of more serious illnesses including diabetes and heart disease. Give your body a break and take some steps to ensure you bound out of bed every day with limitless energy, find out how according to the sleep specialists.

Mental Health

The link between good sleep and good mental health has long been known to medical science. However it’s only in recent years with the advent of new medical technology that the mechanisms behind what is actually going on are becoming more apparent.

When we sleep a number of vital processes take place in our body. Many involve the regulation of the level of stress hormones and neurotransmitters in our system. If we don’t get enough sleep or our sleep is regularly broken, then our bodies ability to successfully complete these processes is hampered, resulting in imbalances and creating impairments to our emotional regulation and thinking.

One study found that our amygdala, the emotional control centre of the brain, is 60% more reactive when sleep-deprived. Hence the mood swings. It’s thought that these disruptions over a prolonged period of time can either cause or at the least greatly amplify the effect of pre-existing psychiatric disorders. So serious is the impact of sleep-deprivation on mental health that it has been claimed that insomnia sufferers are up-to five times more likely to suffer from depression as those who sleep soundly each night. What’s even more worrying is that long-term poor sleep has even been connected to an increased rate of suicide.

Obesity

Sleep-deprivation has also been linked to weight gain and obesity. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, if you’re missing sleep you will be low on energy when you’re tired you’re less likely to hit the gym or go for a jog and get the exercise you need.

Secondly, sleep-deprivation affects our food choices and impacts our willpower. When you’re low on power you crave food and drink that will give you the quickest hit you need to make it through the day. Unfortunately for your waistline, the food most tired people head to is high in calories.

Thirdly, being tired actually affects the way our bodies process food. Sleep-deprived fat cells suffer from what researchers have termed ‘metabolic grogginess’, meaning the way they respond to the hormone insulin is impaired.

Insulin controls how our body manages fat, when we are tired we are less sensitive to the messages insulin sends out, meaning that less fat is burned and more is sent to be stored in our tissue. This, in brief, is how we get fat. it’s also how we increase our chances of type 2 diabetes. So there you have it – three ways in which sleep-deprivation can become your worst nightmare.

The solution, take your sleep more seriously. Do whatever you can to ensure you get enough. Get into the habit of a regular bedtime.

It also means taking measures to ensure you are tired and not overstimulated when going to bed. This involves banning your smartphone from your bedroom and yes, it means avoiding that delicious iced coffee you’re so addicted to.

Sorry but your health will thank you. Sweet dreams!