Updated: Jul 1, 2020
Sleep is an incredibly important aspect of our everyday lives, as it hugely affects our physical and mental health. In fact, we need sleep to survive – as it is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.
On average, we spend one-third of our lives sleeping and our body uses sleep for important biological processes. When we sleep:
Our brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste,
Our nerve cells communicate and reorganize, a process that supports healthy brain function,
Our body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins.
These processes are critical for your overall health. Without them, your body can’t function correctly.
Why is sleep so important?
It affects stress and growth hormones
It boosts immune system
It regulates appetite
It improves concentration and brain function
It decreases risk of depression
Circadian rhythm: Your internal clock
The circadian rhythm is a cycle, that controls many biological processes such as the sleep-wake cycle (our ability to get quality sleep), hormone secretion, cardiovascular health, glucose homeostasis, body temperature, energy levels and metabolism regulation (weight control). Think of it as your internal clock.
This rhythm is influenced by the environment (such as lightness or darkness) as well as your genetic makeup and determines your sleep patterns by releasing hormones when it’s time to sleep.
Nowadays, with the amount of time spent indoors, lack of regular exercise and exposure to sunlight, it’s likely to disrupt our internal rhythm, and abnormalities in the circadian rhythm can lead to sleep disorders like insomnia. Small changes to your lifestyle, such as sleep-wake up at the same time, regular light exposure, physical activity and IV therapy treatments can do a lot for your health.
How sleep affects your immunity
During sleep, your body produces and releases cytokines - a type of proteins that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, leading to a compromised immune response.
Getting recommended 7 to 8 hours quality sleep each night can help you stay healthy, will keep your immune system in fighting shape, and also protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Alcohol and sleep
While many people believe that having a drink will help them get to sleep faster, alcohol actually increases the number of times you awaken during the night, leaving you tired and sleep-deprived the next day.
Sleeping deprivation and what causes it
The loss of sleep is a common problem in modern society, affecting many individuals at some point in their lives.
Sleep deprivation occurs when an individual gets less sleep than they need to feel awake and alert. Insufficient sleep adversely affects how the body functions. Experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven’t had enough sleep.
Negative Impacts of Insufficient Sleep
poor focus and concentration
poor motor function
weakened immune system
Poor sleep quality can be caused by any number of things, from stress and vitamin deficiency to chronic condition. Some of the causes for sleep deprivation include:
Stress – being under a lot of stress can cause many sleepless nights.
Unhealthy diet - What you eat can affect your sleep. Data shows that eating less fiber, more saturated fat and more sugar throughout the day is linked with lighter, less restorative sleep.
Nutritional deficiencies - A new study based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) suggests that sleep quality may be linked to a lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet. A lack of Vitamin B6 has been linked to symptoms of insomnia and depression. Vitamin B6 aids in the production of the hormones serotonin and melatonin, both of which are important to sound, restful sleep, and also to mood.
Lack of exercise - Sleep and exercise complement each other. Working out regularly can help you sleep better, and conversely, you're more likely to exercise if you get a good night's rest.
Anxiety or depression – emotional problems can be underlying problems of the insomnia,
Medical problems or illness - Many medical conditions and diseases can contribute to insomnia, including asthma, allergies, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, kidney disease, and cancer.
Sleep disorders - Insomnia is itself a sleep disorder, but it can also be a symptom of other sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and circadian rhythm disturbances tied to jet lag or late-night shift work.
How to improve your sleep quality?
Getting a good amount of sleep is incredibly important for your health. Sleep helps your body and brain function properly. A good night’s sleep can improve your learning, memory, decision-making and even your creativity.
What’s more, getting sufficient sleep has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity.
Small changes to your lifestyle can positively impact the quality of your sleep and significantly improve your health.
How to adjust your lifestyle for a better-quality sleep?
- Try to sleep and wake at consistent times - Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality.
- Increase bright light exposure during the day - Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as night time sleep quality and duration.
- Exercise regularly — but not before bed - Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health. Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep.