Sleep is the most crucial part of physical health. Getting enough sleep protects your mental health and well being and keeps your brain functioning to the best of its ability. With a good night’s sleep, your brain is able to prepare itself for the next day by organizing its thoughts, memories, and new skills. Unfortunately, with nearly 35% of Americans getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep a night, this can lead to life threatening problems.
- Sleep deprivation can lead to diabetes. If your body gets less than five hours of sleep a night, it skips out on the most important stage of sleep, deep sleep (for more information about stages of sleep, see chart at end of article), and causes your insulin-producing cells to stop working, leading you to be a wide target for Type 2 Diabetes.
- Nearly one-third of Americans have fell asleep behind the wheel and over 100,000 car crashes happen annually as as a result of fatigue. The effects of sleep deprivation while driving are just as bad as that of alcohol. The driving ability of an adult who has been awake for 18 hours are just that of someone who has a .5 alcohol level (.8 is when considered drunk).
- During sleep, your body begins to repair your heart and blood vessels to prevent from any oncoming diseases that may form. A poor sleep schedule can cause serious
heart problems on your health like heart attacks, heart failure, increasing blood pressure or strokes.
With all the health risks that come with not getting enough sleep, why aren’t more of us going to bed on time? A recent study by the Huffington Post showed the varying amounts of sleep that US adults get and discovered that how much you sleep depends on the type of person you are. Individuals who were over the age of 65, married, white, Asian or Hispanic and possessing college education or higher were more likely to get the recommended hours of sleep than those poor and disadvantaged. 71.5% of people with a college degree or higher got at least seven hours of sleep while only 62.5% of those with a level of education below that got their recommended amount.
Factors Behind Sleep Deprivation
In a study by a 2005 poll by Sleep Foundation, it was found that 14% of Americans are shifter workers that face sleep problems like insomnia, fatigue and difficulty in concentration. The reason behind this is because of the problems that come with sleeping during the daytime because of the body’s sensitivity to light. “Light and dark are cues that help synchronize our circadian system to our environment,” sleep specialist Michael Decker explained. “The same concept goes for why people experience jet lag — when you’re crossing time zones, your brain is preparing to fall asleep because it’s dark in your time zone. But if you’re suddenly waking up and receiving new light, your brain’s sleep-wake cycle becomes desynchronized, and it takes several days to be resynchronized.” In the retina’s of our eyes,
there are “light sensitive” cells that occupy a space to tell our brain whether it’s daytime or nighttime, adjusting our sleep patterns accordingly. People who work on the night shift have their sleep patterns disrupted and delay the phase of our internal clock of when bedtime is. For individuals who are shift workers, Decker recommends to investing in a pair of eyeshades to wear when sleeping to simulate darkness.
There’s a reason why so many children are told to take a warm bath before bed. According to Decker, “Taking a hot bath or drinking something warm raises their core body so that it’s able to drop and people are able to get that physiological cue for sleep, he said. As the night goes on and the morning begins to approach, our body temperature begins to gradually increase, until it reaches the room temperature and signals our brains to wake up.” The temperature of the room we sleep in affects the quality of our sleep so when our core body temperatures start to decrease, that’s our body signaling for us to go to bed. A too hot room can cause our body temperature to increase, leading us to wake up. A cool room allows for the full benefits of deep sleep to occur, the most reparative stage of sleeping for our bodies. The recommended room temperature reported by WebMD is sid to be between 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep.
With the increasing popularity of smartphones, up to 83% of college students own one yet, is the damage they do to our sleep worth it? Smartphones disrupt your sleep because of the blue light they emit. The blue light signals to the “light sensitive” cells in our eyes that it’s morning when it’s really nighttime, making it difficult to sleep. Furthermore, the light that comes off your phone disrupts your melatonin production, a hormone that is produced while you’re sleeping, which can lead to some health risks. Disrupting melatonin production tampers hormones that control your hunger which can increase your obesity risk and it can also damage your retina over time.
(For information about how to improve your sleep as a college student, refer to table at end of article)back to menu ↑
What We Can Change
All the damage that is done to our bodies from the external factors impacting our sleep are severely impacting our health each night. With everything our bodies get put through, it’s no wonder two-fifths of Americans complain about feeling tired each week. If we don’t change our sleeping habits now, we’ll all have to face the detrimental damage that sleep deprivation can bring. However, with the new innovative ways of the 21st century, science has discovered some marvelous ways to help those restless sleepers get some shut eye.
- Camping: Though it may sound strange, camping is an amazing way to set your sleep cycle to nature’s natural rhythms of day and night. Out in the woods, your body adjusts to the natural pattern of sunlight, waking you up with the sun and putting you to sleep right as it goes down.
- Headstands: While the idea may sound ridiculous, it’s been proven effective! Headstands circulate fresh blood to our head and cleanse your adrenal glands to help you think positive thoughts. Naturally, your stress levels lower and your anxiety begins to fade, allowing you to doze off into a peaceful slumber.
- White Noise: The most effective solution to cancel out all outside sound is white noise. Since white noise is an ambient sound, it plays in the background and gradually lulls you into sleep.
- Curling Your Toes: Before you laugh at the idea, curling your toes has proven itself to be one of the easiest and quickest ways to relax your mind and body. By curling your toes, holding them for a few seconds, then uncurling, your mind slowly unwinds. Scientists aren’t sure as to why this is, but many believe it’s due to the simplicity of the action that helps calm your brain and relieve tension from your muscles.
- Drink Cherry Juice: Ditch your glass of warm milk for some cherry juice instead.Tart cherries have melatonin in them, the sleep hormone that regulates your body when you’re in bed. Studies have shown that by drinking cherry juice, it can help you sleep almost 90 minutes longer because of its natural sleep enhancing benefits.
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With the ever changing technology and increasingly fast pace lifestyle, it’s understandable as to why more individuals don’t take time for themselves and their health.
However, with all the health risks that come from sleep deprivation, people must start taking
the importance of sleep more seriously. Remember, sleep is a necessity to a healthy mind and healthy life!