Sleep has a critical role in promoting health (Irwin, 2015). Research shows that sleep disturbances and a lack of sleep (under 6-7 hours per night) have a powerful influence on the risk of disease, obesity, workplace-related accidents, being involved in a motor vehicle accident and poor performance both professionally and in personal life (Gildner et al., 2014). A lack of quality & quantity of sleep having adverse effects on mental health (Tarokh, Saletin & Carskadon, 2016). Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies, growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
Ample evidence shows that sleep and pain are inversely related (Finan et al., 2013). Recent experimental studies suggest that sleep disturbance may impair critical processes that contribute to the development and maintenance of chronic pain, including endogenous pain inhibition and joint pain (Sivertsen et al., 2015). A reduction in sleep produces a heightened response to pain.
Why is sleep the missing ingredient? Western society is driven by a need to do more, be more and be better. We fuel this society with early mornings, late work hours, caffeine, late-night social events and then saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” The societal pressure to sleep less and do more is enormous, and yet it is slowly killing us. As you read above, a reduction in sleep is practically problematic for everything in our life. We function worse, hurt ourselves more and contract more diseases all causing us to die younger and live below our potentials.
Let it be known that while you think you can recover from your “sleep debt” by sleeping more the next night (Walker, 2017). It doesn’t actually work that way. Every single night is a unique opportunity to consolidate and recreate new pathways within your brain, every night of reduced or lost sleep cannot be regained by trying to oversleep and recover the “sleep debt” the following nights. Following a night of reduced sleep, the ratio’s of type of sleep, you’ll achieve on the “makeup” sleep will change, but the opportunity is already lost.
What can you do to improve your sleep?
- Aim for 8-9 hour’s sleep per night
- Learn to say “No.” to events
- Cut screen time 3 hours before bed
- Wake at regular times every day – set a rhythm.
- Stop drinking caffeine 8 hours before your planned bedtime.
- Swap late-night dinner for brunch & lunches.
- Try using blue blockers on your devices throughout the day/evening.
- Exercise in the morning, try and plan to not exercise 3 hours before bed.
Lastly, if you implement all of the above strategies, and they make a minimal difference to how you wake up and feel in the morning. Please seek a medical opinion/assessment. Ensuring adequate length & quality of sleep will literally save and change your life.