Saturday, April 14 2018
Health Consequences of Poor Sleep
Science already tells us that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. When the body is well rested, the body performs optimally. On the flip side, when the body is poorly rested, performance plummets. Individuals who suffer from chronic lack or poor quality of sleep are likely to experience decreased brain function, hormonal imbalances, increased risk of heart disease, abnormal growth and development (seen in children and teens), decreased productivity and performance, fertility issues, poor immune and insulin responses, and an increased risk of getting in a motor vehicle accident.
In short, sleep plays a crucial role in the repair and maintenance of all systems (physical and psychological) of the human body. Unfortunately, a significant number of Americans do not get the amount of sleep necessary to support a healthy body and mind.
What Happens During Sleep
A state of sleep may seem, on the surface, to be a quiet and tranquil experience. But your body is working hard to repair, recover, build, strengthen, grow and defend. It’s during sleep that the “real” work of progress begins and ends. Sleep is a productive process even if you aren’t moving or interacting.
While you rest, the body begins its work. Like a factory, several processes occur all at once and involve multiple systems. For example:
It makes sense that if the body is chronically under-rested, these valuable and necessary processes are disrupted. The body then cannot adequately repair tissues and blood vessels, produce and release hormones efficiently, or remove waste. If sleep suffers, there are systemic effects.
Downward Spiral to Poor Health
When the body is sleep deprived, the brain craves food (and usually not the healthiest varieties). The hormones responsible for regulating hunger and satiety become unbalanced. Ghrelin (the hunger “gremlin” hormone) increases, while leptin (the satiety hormone) decreases. Consequently, caloric intake increases and caloric expenditure decreases due to lack of motivation from mental and physical fatigue. This eventually leads to weight gain.
Further, poor sleep results in higher-than-normal blood-sugar levels because a tired body is unable to effectively respond to insulin. If poor sleep is chronic, the development of metabolic disorders is inevitable.
We have to commit to be “sleep fit” in order to reverse the downward spiral and improve the body’s functional capacity.
How to Improve Sleep Fitness
Everyone requires a slightly different environment to sleep well. However, there are some key ingredients to improving the “sleepability” of your space. When it comes to your environment consider taking the following actions:
There are also several behavioral tricks you can employ to improve sleep:
Finally, communicate openly with your doctor if you feel sleep deprivation is chronic and interfering with your life (personally and professionally).
Dr. Erin Nitschke, contributor, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor.