Why should you focus on healthy sleep? According to the Center for Disease Control, insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. Sleep disturbances are linked to many medical conditions including: diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, arrhythmias, depression, stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury (1)(2). Compromised sleep is correlated with chronic inflammation (3), increases in depression (4), and an increased risk of infection, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke (5). In other words, some medical conditions can lower sleep quality and sleep deprivation can result in developing further illness. Look at depression—having depressive symptoms can compromise your sleep quality and poor sleep can cause depressive symptoms. This produces a downward spiral of less optimal health.
Did you know that sleep quality can impact your weight? Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity.
Proper sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up, which stimulates your appetite, and your level of leptin goes down, so you need more food to feel satisfied (5). A Stanford University Study revealed that those who slept less than 8 hours a night not only had lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin, but they also had a higher level of body fat. When sleep deprived, the body is in a greater state of stress and thus cortisol is present. There is a correlation between cortisol and percentage body fat (6).
Some of the benefits of healthy sleep include: increased energy (7), performance, alertness, memory, concentration, creativity, resilience, and vitality (5). While we are awake, neural activity produces metabolic degradation products. The restorative function of sleep is partially a result of the brain switching into a functional state that facilitates the clearance of these potentially neurotoxic waste products (8).
Common factors that can interfere with healthy sleep include: chronic pain, medication side effects, excessive consumption of stimulating or sedating substances, muscular tension, lack of exercise, anxiety, worry, stress, over-stimulation from reading, work, or television, marital or family tension, excessive exposure to light at night, a bedroom that is too warm, an uncomfortable bed, nighttime allergies, and circadian rhythms that are out of sync with local time (jet lag). In order to manage some of these factors, you may need to consult a health-care professional (chronic pain, medication side effects, muscular tension, marital or family tension, nighttime allergies) but some factors can be self-managed. If you have difficulty implementing lifestyle changes, some coaching or motivational interviewing sessions could help.
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