It’s normal for us to pull an all-nighter once in a while, when we’re rushing that final report, or chasing the latest series on Netflix. We tell ourselves that we can deal with the eyebags and brain fog with concealer and strong coffee, no problem.
However, there are dire long-term health consequences to a chronic lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to the increased risk of a number of chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even depression.
How much sleep do I need?
Most adults need 7 or more hours of good quality sleep on a regular schedule each night. You’re getting good quality sleep if you:
- Are able to fall asleep soon after getting into bed
- Have an uninterrupted sleep through the night; and
- Feel rested, restored and energised upon waking up in the morning.
What happens when I don’t get quality sleep?
Poor sleep can have a serious toll on your energy levels during the day, productivity, ability to manage your emotions, and even your weight. Prolonged periods of poor sleep can also have a huge negative impact on your health. It may put you at an increased risk of certain health conditions and chronic diseases:
Studies have found that sleep loss can increase your risk of becoming obese. During sleep, your body produces and regulates various hormones in your body that help with metabolic processes. This includes ghrelin, a hormone which makes you feel hungry, and leptin, a hormone which makes you feel full. Lack of sleep can cause your ghrelin levels to increase and leptin levels to decrease, and cause you to crave high fat and sugary junk food, which can further worsen your sleep quality at night.
As your blood pressure is generally reduced when you’re sleeping, having poor sleep can lead to a higher daily average blood pressure. This can in turn increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Insulin is a natural hormone that regulates your blood sugar levels. Sleep deprivation may affect the rate at which insulin maintains your glucose level, putting you at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
As we’re all familiar, a single sleepless night may cause you to be irritable and moody the following day. Studies show that chronic insufficient sleep may lead to long-term mood disorders, including depression, anxiety, and mental distress.
What can I do to get better sleep?
If you have been struggling with sleep or you want to improve your sleep health, try incorporating these sleep hygiene tips into your lifestyle:
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature leading up to bedtime, so that you can relax your senses and prepare for rest.
- Limit the use of electronic devices, such as your smartphone, tablet, and TV, before going to bed as the blue light from the devices can affect your body’s natural circadian rhythm and keep you feeling wide awake at night.
- Avoid having large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime as these substances can stay in your system for some time and disrupt your sleep quality. It’s best to avoid drinking alcohol at least 3 hours before you plan to sleep and caffeine at least 5 hours before sleeping.
- Exercise regularly, as being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
Apart from poor sleeping habits, problems with sleep can also be caused by sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea or disordered breathing.
Speak with a doctor over the DA app if you’re persistently having issues falling asleep. Our doctor can help you evaluate factors that could be impacting your sleep, and discuss strategies or medications to help you sleep better.