Oghomwen (Owen) Jones
Good quality sleep is important
The quality of sleep is very important, indeed essential to our general well-being. Good quality sleep makes it easier to deal with the challenges that life brings our way.
Sleep is as vital for our survival and wellbeing as are food and water. According to guidelines in a 2015 publication by the National Sleep Foundation adults between the ages of 18-64 need 7-9 hours of sleep at night.
Restoration and repair work happens in our bodies as we sleep. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and stroke (NINDS) has researched and found that sufficient quality sleep can aid the removal of toxins from our brain. These build up when we are awake during the day. Good quality sleep also helps us consolidate memories and restores our brain’s ability to concentrate, rebuild muscles etc.
On the other hand, sustained lack of sleep can wreak havoc on our health. Some consequences of long term disrupted sleep include increased risk of depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The relationship between sleep and diabetes is discussed later in this blog.
Quality sleep is also vital when we are trying to lose weight. It is probably as crucial a factor as diet and exercise. There is mounting evidence that shows that sleep may be the missing factor for many people who are struggling to lose weight.
Studies have found that inadequate sleep can lead to weight gain and a higher likelihood of obesity in both children and adults.
We need to learn to make our bedrooms conducive for quality sleep. How much light, sound and the temperature of our bedrooms are important in ensuring good quality sleep. For many, a quiet, pleasant temperature and dark environment are essential. I personally cannot sleep with the TV or music on and prefer a pitch-dark room. It’s important to know what works for you.
Sleep deprivation affects the hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. The hormone leptin curbs appetite by regulating satiety/fullness. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin, and so leads to an increase in appetite, particularly carb and sugar cravings the next day. Temptations may then become hard to resist and portion sizes difficult to control, resulting in weight gain.
The hunger hormone, ghrelin is another hormone that is affected by deprived sleep. Ghrelin increases with sleep deprivation resulting in increased appetite and therefore weight gain. Increased eating may also simply be from an increase in the number of hours spent awake. This is especially detrimental when this time is spent inactive, such as slouched on a couch, watching television.
Insufficient sleep can result in daytime fatigue, reducing the likelihood and motivation to exercise. We are also more likely to tire easily during physical activity, when sleep deprived. Sufficient sleep should help improve our athletic performance and its benefits. Exercise can be a contributory factor in losing and maintaining weight loss. The timing of exercise and physical activity is important though. Research by John’s Hopkins University indicates that exercise earlier in the day helps us sleep better at night. However, when we exert ourselves late at night it can keep us awake. I have experienced this, and so typically exercise early in the day. Apparently aerobic exercise causes the release of endorphins which makes us more active and raises our body’s core temperature. These will likely contribute to a decline in our ability to sleep.
It is not a good idea to go to bed with an empty stomach as it may prevent us from falling asleep soundly. Gorging before sleep is also not wise. I find that eating a light dinner at a time that allows at least 3-3 ½ hours before a regular bedtime helps me get a good night’s sleep. Say for example bedtime is 10 p.m.,try to ensure that dinner is finished by 6.30-7p.m. A regular bedtime is really helpful in ensuring adequate sleep. Of course, there can be exceptions to this…such as when we go out at night.
Alcohol and caffeine too late is not a good idea. According to the CDC, alcohol does cause relaxation, but can diminish the quality of sleep. For some people, taking coffee too late in the day can disrupt sleep. With these people the FDA says, it takes 4-6 hours for half the caffeine they have consumed to leave their bodies. The remaining caffeine can keep them awake.
Research shows that it is not a good idea to be very active on a telephone just before bedtime. I try hard to stay away from my phone at least an hour before my bedtime and do not look at it during the night. This I have found helps ensure that my sleep is not disrupted. I find reading a non intense book, helps me drift into sound sleep.
With sleep deprivation, a vicious cycle can easily ensue. The less we sleep, the more weight we gain, and the more weight we gain, the harder it is to sleep well. Adequate sleep also helps lower stress and has anti-inflammatory properties; it facilitates the loss of a lot of body fluids…so chronic inflammation goes down. Our bodies heal, recover, and restores itself when we sleep.
Insufficient sleep can cause our body to become resistant to insulin. Very briefly, insulin resistance is experienced when cells in our muscles, fat, and liver do not respond well to insulin. When this happens the body cannot easily take up glucose from the blood. As a result, the pancreas makes more insulin to help glucose enter our cells. As long as the pancreas can make enough insulin to overcome the body’s weak response to insulin, our blood glucose levels will stay in the healthy range. When insulin resistance is left unmanaged it can progress to pre diabetes and eventually full blown diabetes.
Most adults will experience insomnia from time to time. When I do, I meditate on God’s Word, which often gives me respite. I particularly enjoy meditating on this scripture at a time like this.
Psalms 4:8 TPT
Now, because of you, Lord, I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for no matter what happens, I will live unafraid!
The Mayo Clinic suggests that when sleep is slow in coming it is a good idea to get up and leave the bedroom. Do something that you find relaxing for say 20 mins. By this time you should hopefully feel tired. Then try going back to sleep…
When insomnia is ongoing and starts to affect our wellbeing, then perhaps we should see a Doctor.
I write about sleep and much more in my easy to read heathy lifestyle book, ‘Moderation Is Key’. It’s available on amazon and iTunes in different formats. Paperback, Hardback, kindle and audio. Hurry and get your copy.