Ten Deadly Things That Can Happen When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do to take care of your health. I actually rank sleep up there with eating organic healthy food and getting regular exercise. It is my top three priorities and I am a shameless guardian of my sleep. It is just THAT important.
But—hormone changes, stress, lack of exercise and other lifestyle factors can totally interfere with sleep. Most of the industrialized world is sleep deprived to some extent.
Sleep is so important though, that the lack of it can have devastating and dire consequences. In fact, sleep deprivation has been a factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, the space shuttle Challenger explosion, Air France flight 447 (killing all aboard), the Great Heck rail crash in UK, and many, many more.
2. Automobile accidents
Lack of sleep is also a huge public safety hazard every day on the road. Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that sleepiness is related to over 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 sleep-related deaths a year in the United States alone.
3. Work Accidents
Studies show that sleep loss and poor-quality sleep also lead to accidents and injuries on the job. In one study, workers who complained about excessive daytime sleepiness had significantly more work accidents, particularly repeated work accidents. Sleepy workers are 70 percent more likely to be involved in accidents and workers with chronic insomnia are far more likely to report industrial accidents or injuries.
People with excessive sleepiness who also snore (a potential sign of sleep apnea) are twice as likely to be involved in workplace accidents. And tragically, a Swedish study of nearly 50,000 people found that those with sleep problems were nearly twice as likely to die in a work-related accident. Sleep deprived people also had more sick days per accident.
4. Deadly Medical Errors
The Institute of Medicine’s report estimates that as many as 98,000 deaths occur per year in the United States’ hospitals–due to medical errors. Long work hours and patient overload among hospital workers contributes to this serious problem.
5. Mental Dysfunction
But that’s not all. Sleep loss actually affects your thought processes, making you more forgetful, clouding your judgement, and making it harder to comprehend information. Sleep deprivation also causes irritability, moodiness, depression and excess anxiety.
Studies show people who are sleep deprived report increases in negative moods (anger, frustration, irritability, sadness) and decreases in positive moods. And if you go long enough without sleep, you will actually start to hallucinate. A lack of sleep can also trigger manic episodes in those with bipolar disorder. Other psychological risks include:
• Increase in impulsive or criminal behavior (lack of judgement)
• Increase in anxiety and depression
• Suicidal thoughts
Sleep deprived people can also experience something called “micro-sleep” where you fall asleep for a few seconds without realizing it. This can be incredibly dangerous depending on the situation.
6. Chronic Disease
Lack of sleep actually makes you more at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and obesity. And this recent European Heart Journal study showed that those people getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep a night had a 35 percent higher of cardiovascular disease and strokes.
7. Hormone Production
Hormone production is super dependent on your sleep. Sleep is vital for growth hormone production. Growth hormone is necessary for building muscle, repairing cells and rebuilding tissue and collagen production.
For testosterone production, you need at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is about the time of your first REM episode. Not sleeping enough depletes hormone production.
8. Poor Immune Function
During sleep, the immune system releases a type of protective protein called cytokines–some of these actually help promote sleep. Cytokines are a line of defense that is needed to fight off infection or inflammation, or during times of stress. Sleep deprivation decreases these protective cytokines, along with infection-fighting antibodies and cells, making it difficult for the body to fight off any infectious illnesses.
9. Out of Control Appetite
Hormones that make you feel hungry like ghrelin or full, like leptin get out of control. Leptin goes down while ghrelin goes up, making you crave the munchies. In addition sleep deficiency actually creates a higher than normal blood sugar level, causing more insulin to be released. When insulin is released, appetite goes up. All of this means sleep deprivation will most likely cause hunger and weight gain.
10. Accelerates Aging
Sleep deprivation can cause your skin to age faster, according to a new study. In a clinical trial by skin care specialists, it was found that poor sleepers showed definite signs of aging skin. Sleep deprived women showed signs of premature skin aging, and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover from sun exposure.
Researchers found that those who didn’t sleep well exhibited more signs of skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation, poor color, and reduced skin elasticity. The researchers also found that those who enjoyed quality sleep were more quick to recover from stressors to the skin such as sun and environmental toxins.
Considering the importance of sleep, how do you safeguard those 7-8 hours every night? Well, of course, try to get to bed at about the same time every night. This gets your body into a habit of sleeping/waking that is vital to good sleep.
Be sure to get some vigorous activity in every day—especially outside during daylight hours if possible. If you can just get outside for a brisk walk at lunchtime, it can help a lot! Lifting weights or any other type of strenuous exercise will help even more—as long as you don’t do it within 2 hours of bedtime.
WATCH the Caffeine in your drinks, food or medications. Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours. So think of this—ONE cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine. With a half-life of 6 hours, that means that six hour later, you still have 50 mg in your system and another 6 hours later, you have 25mg in your system. Obviously if you drink coffee at lunch time, you will still have caffeine in your system at bedtime. And some people are genetically inclined to be even slower metabolizers of caffeine.
Don’t get dehydrated. Drink plenty of water, because dehydration can actually make heart pound harder as it works to get that slightly thicker blood around the body.
Too much alcohol will definitely mess up your sleep—even more than a couple of drinks will disrupt sleep and REM cycles, often causing you to wake up in the night. Too much alcohol can also cause more night sweats and hot flashes—especially for women.
Stress. We all have it. If you can, try to find relaxing ways to end your day, like meditating, stretching, yoga, or a hot Epsom salts bath. Even a hot shower works well–as your body cools off, it actually helps you feel sleepier.
We know prescription sleeping pills are certainly not the best solution for sleep, but many of us turn to these as a last resort—or our Doctors are pushing them on us, so we take them.
The thing is, sleeping pills can cause a lot of unpleasant side effects from headaches and sleep hangovers to nausea, irritability, and dizziness.
They can also cause you to do crazy things like raid the fridge at night in a sleepy stupor, drive your car in your sleep, sleep walk, grind your teeth, snore, or have sleep apnea, and more.
Here are a few natural ways to promote a sound and restful sleep—with beneficial side effects!
Magnesium helps your muscles relax and it helps you feel more calm. Magnesium also helps with deep sleep phases. And its super important for overall health as well, as it contributes to about 300 other necessary functions in the body, including heart health. Epsom salts contain magnesium so a Epsom salt hot bath is awesome way to relax and get to sleep.
L-theanine is a natural chemical that helps calm down the activity in the brain. And it does help with sleep and to help you feel calm and rested. But be aware that theanine or L-theanine can have a bounce back reaction, and it cause anxiety when it wears off.
Melatonin is a natural brain chemical that helps with sleep. The biggest problem with melatonin is that it can cause you to wake up when it wears off in the middle of the night.
To solve this, you can take melatonin in a time release form.
It is better if you only take it once in a while like when you are changing time zones, drink too much or stare at your computer too late at night.
You’ve probably never heard of this one, but Collagen is excellent for sleep—and it’s great for your hair, skin and nails as well. Try a nice steaming mug of collagen/bone broth before bed. The primary amino acid in bone broth or collagen is glycine, which is very effective for inducing sleep. Glycine also helps lower your body temperature, which induces sleep, and it restores your natural REM pattern to your sleep as well.
If you don’t already know, CBD is the non-psychoactive ingredient in hemp or marijuana. In other words, CBD does not get you ‘high’ and is legal. CBD is also an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-nausea, and calming pain killer, that helps stimulate melatonin production as well. If you do decide to try out CBD oil, please check out this link from our friends from Healthy Living Nutritional.
Progesterone starts do decrease around ten years before menopause ever starts. Progesterone is a relaxing, “feel good” hormone for women. It really helps to promote a sense of calm– getting rid of anxiety and irritability.
So even if you are in your 40s and having trouble sleeping at night, you may need progesterone. Progesterone is relatively safe and easy to use. You can purchase it in an over-the-counter natural cream and apply it right before bed, using as much or as little as you need.
Sex helps stimulate endorphins, oxytocin and vasopressin—all hormones which help create calming feelings of attachment, security, and relaxation. So perhaps you can nudge your partner to see if they are interested in helping you get a good night’s sleep.
And finally, If none of these things help, it may be worth a visit to the doctor to have blood work done to check hormone, nutrient and thyroid levels, and to rule out other health conditions.
Good night. Sleep well.
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