Everybody knows it’s unhealthy to run on very little sleep, but researchers recently presented new findings that emphasize just how important it is to avoid sleep deprivation.
As presented in August 2018 at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, sleeping too little or even too much is linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease; getting less than 5 hours of sleep can be as bad for your heart as smoking; and getting less than 6 hours of sleep is linked to higher risk of hardened arteries. (9, 10) And that far from covers it!
Lack of sleep can cause strong positive and negative emotions which in turn can create more trouble with sleeping and affect your attention, memory, and learning ability. (3, 4)
Poor sleep quality can affect your performance when you exercise or try to be physically active. According to a study, lack of sleep affected negatively not only the participants who rarely exercised, but also those who exercised regularly and were well-trained. (1)
A study found that participants who slept less than 8 hours on average had low leptin, the hormone that decreases appetite, and high ghrelin levels, the hormone that increases appetite. This group of participants also had higher BMI compared to the participants who slept an average of 8 hours every night. (6)
The Spoon Test: How to Tell If You’re Sleep Deprived
If you feel tired during the day, can’t wait to take a nap, and fall asleep as soon as you lie down, then you might be sleep deprived. Lack of sleep can negatively affect your mental and physical health and make you gain weight. Fortunately, it’s very easy to determine whether you suffer from lack of sleep with this simple test.
What you’ll need
- A watch or a device to measure time
- A metal spoon
- A metal tray
Place the tray at the side of the bed and lie down. Hold the spoon right above the tray, check the time, and then try to fall asleep. When you eventually fall asleep, your muscles will naturally relax and the spoon will fall from your hand, hit the tray, and wake you up. The time that it takes you to fall asleep will tell you whether you are sleep deprived. 15 minutes is normal, but 10 minutes mean that you could be sleep deprived and 5 minutes or less show that you might be severely sleep deprived.
Another way to test whether you are sleep deprived is the sleep test, which you can watch how to do in the following video.
How to Sleep Better (Quality and Length)
Relax With Essential Oils
In a sleep study, elderly participants with dementia and sleep disturbance slept on towels that had a few drops of essential oils for 20 days. Participants chose the oils that they liked, which were true lavender, a blend of sweet orange and lavender, and a Japanese cypress, Virginian cedarwood, cypress, and pine oil blend. In 20 days, the participants were sleeping longer and woke up later in the morning.
Aromatherapy works so well on sleep because when you inhale essential oils, your brain sends signals to your body to release serotonin and endorphins, which help produce the sleep hormone melatonin, induce sleep, and make you feel calm and relaxed. (7)
Refrain From Certain Foods
Acid reflux is responsible for digestive problems such as heartburn, regurgitation, and difficulty in digesting food and it happens when stomach acid passes from the stomach to the esophagus. Eating foods that are acidic such as citrus, caffeine, or fried junk food can worsen acid reflux. This condition can also get worse when you lie down so when you go to bed for the night it can interfere with your sleep and the discomfort can keep you awake. (2)
Avoid Screen Time Too Late In The Day
During sleep you produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep, but you produce it primarily at night and in environments that are dark. Watching TV or using an electronic device such as a smartphone or eReader before bed, especially with all lights turned off, suppresses the production of melatonin and forces your brain into sleeplessness. (8)
Avoid Caffeine Too Late In The Day
Caffeine seems to be the easiest solution for people who need a boost of energy, but the reality is that caffeine doesn’t give you more energy, it just restores the energy that you lost due to lack of sleep. Drinking caffeine messes with your normal sleep cycle and doesn’t allow you to replenish your energy by sleeping later in the day. It’s an unhealthy cycle: lack of sleep will make you need more caffeine to stay awake, but caffeine won’t let you sleep. (5)
Sleep is necessary for your mental and physical wellbeing and when you avoid much-needed sleep your health suffers. If sleeping is challenging, try these sleeping tips until you find something that relaxes you and improves the quality of your sleep.
- Clinical Trials: Lavender Oil Improves Anxiety and Sleep Problems
- Valerian Root: 3 Ways You Can Use What Scientists Call The Most Effective Natural Sleep Remedy
- New Napercise Classes Prove Why Sleep Is Important
(1) Antunes, B. M., Campos, E. Z., Parmezzani, S. S., Santos, R. V., Franchini, E., & Lira, F. S. (2017). Sleep quality and duration are associated with performance in maximal incremental test. Physiology & Behavior, 11(177), 252-256.
(2) Blahd, W. (October 12, 2015). Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Understanding Heartburn
(3) Gruber, R., Somerville, G., Paquin, S., & Boursier, J. (2017). Determinants of sleep behavior in adolescents: A pilot study. Sleep Health, 3(3), 157-162.
(4) Krause, A. J., Simon, E. B., Mander, B. A., Greer, S. M., Saletin, J. M., Goldstein-Piekarski, A. N., & Walker M. P. (2017) The sleep-deprived human brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
(5) Roehrs, T. & Roth, T. (2008). Caffeine: Sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 12(2), 153–162.
(6) Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLoS Medicine, 1(3), 1-62.
(7) Takeda, A., Watanuki, E., & Koyama, S. (2017). Effects of Inhalation Aromatherapy on Symptoms of Sleep Disturbance in the Elderly with Dementia. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017(2017), 1-7.
(8) Yoshimura, M., Kitazawa, M., Maeda, Y., Mimura, M., Tsubota, K., Kishimoto, T. (2017). Smartphone viewing distance and sleep: an experimental study utilizing motion capture technology. Nature and Science of Sleep, 9, 59-65.
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