When you are lying in bed and
you look at your clock for the fifth time. It is now 3am, but you are still awake. You have been tossing and turning all night. Sound familiar? It probably is at least vaguely familiar. We’ve all had an insomniac night here or there. Lying in bed awake at night can be very frustrating. For some of us, it is a regular occurrence. Sleep can become this elusive idea that we can’t seem to catch, no matter how hard we try.
I have to admit that for the most part, when my head hits the pillow I am out. I don’t very often find myself lying in bed awake. Of course I have my share of sleepless nights, mostly thanks to my line of work and night calls. Maybe that is why I can easily reconcile sleep. I know it’s a luxury I dont always have.
One of the most common complaints I hear from people is either difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. I occasionally see people that can function pretty well with 4-5 hours of sleep per night, but the truth is, most of us need somewhere between 6.5-8 hours of sleep to function properly.
In fact, sleep complaints have become so common, many experts say it has become a public health epidemic. There is a huge amount of research that has come out in the last 10-15 years regarding sleep and health. Lets take a look at some of those studies to understand a little bit more the importance of sleep.
Sleep and Health
What is the link between sleep and health? Should we worry about lying in bed awake at night? What areas does it impact in our well being? Let’s see:
- Weight control – Do you want to avoid weight gain? Make sure you get a good night’s rest. Studies suggest that there is a link between short sleep duration and obesity (click here to read more). This is true for children as well.
- Diabetes risk – Sleeping too little also increases your risk of developing diabetes. You can read more about that here.
- Heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke – According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who sleep less than 6 hours per night have twice the risk of developing a stroke or a heart attack. Linked to this comes an increased risk of high blood pressure as well.
- Inflammation – Lack of adequate sleep increases overall inflammation in the body, which in turn leads to the development of points 2 and 3. Also, many other diseases are linked to chronic inflammation, including rheumatoid arthritis. I’m sorry to be the Debbie Downer ladies, but this effect of inflammation is more pronounced in women. You can read more about sleep and inflammation here.
- Immune system – If you sleep too little you weaken your body’s ability to fight infections (click here). Which means you will be more suceptible to the common cold and other more concerning diseases. I personally hate having the sniffles and being under the weather!
- Cancer – A huge study from Japan showed that women who slept less than 6 hours per night had a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer. Many other studies are pointing towards similar results with other types of cancer.
- Mental Health – It is thought that people with insomnia have a higher risk of developing depression. Additionally, those that have certain types of mental illness may have increased psychotic episodes and hallucinations (read here).
- Safety – If you are sleep deprived and drive or operate any machinery, needless to say, you increase your risk of having a serious accident.
Let’s not even mention the obvious, like the fact that you feel like you have a hangover from cheap vodka when you skip sleep all together. Your brain gets foggy, you are more emotional, you want to eat all kinds of crap (hence point number 1), your tolerance level goes to 0 and you become snappy. Oh, and you could fall asleep on the subway and wake up in an unknown station past your stop…. Who would do that? 🤔
Of course, none of us can sleep a perfect night’s sleep every night. That is not reality, we all have our lives and/or jobs happening around us. The goal is to try to get a good night’s sleep as often as possible. Also, remember a lot of this refers to chronic sleep deficiency, so it has to happen often and long term. Much of the information we have about sleep deficiency is coming from night shift workers who do this for years and suffer terrible consequences to their health.
All right, so now you know why sleep is important, but that doesn’t solve your issue. How are we to reconcile sleep with our busy and hectic lives? In the interest of keeping posts short and easy reads for people on the go, I am going to split this post into two parts.
Next week, I will share some tips on steps you can take to find the Sandman. While we wait, feel free to comment below and share any tips that work for you! What do you do when you find yourself lying in bed awake at night and can’t sleep? I wish you all have an amazing week of restful and restorative nights sleep.
As most of you are aware, my beautiful island of Puerto Rico was decimated by the path of Hurricane Maria on 9/20/2017. The infrastructure and people are hurting and will be hurting for many months to come. If you are interested in helping, please consider making a donation here.