Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our daily lives, yet it is often overlooked and undervalued. Many of us are guilty of sacrificing sleep for entertainment, work or other responsibilities, but the truth is that skimping on sleep can have serious consequences for both our mental and physical health.
One of the most obvious effects of sleep deprivation is fatigue. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies and minds become tired and sluggish, making it difficult to focus and complete tasks. But the effects of sleep deprivation go beyond just feeling tired.
Sleep also plays a crucial role in maintaining our mental health. Studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a host of health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity but also mental health decline into mania, hallucinations and psychosis. Yes, seriously.
What is more common due to a lack of sleep is irritability, anxiety, and depression. Though studies have also shown that people who suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders are more likely to experience additional health complications such as hormonal abnormalities, immunodeficiency and even cardiovascular disease – the disease with the highest mortality rate for women, globally. Connecting the dots, ladies?
In a less dramatic yet equally important scale, sleep is essential for memory consolidation and learning. During sleep, our brain processes and organises the information that we’ve learned during the day, making it easier to recall and use that information later on. Studies have also shown that people who get a good night’s sleep are better able to retain and recall information than those who are sleep deprived.
So, how much sleep do we need to stay healthy? The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. It’s also important to establish a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. As much as possible. No need to set your watches though. This helps regulate our body’s internal clock and makes it easier to fall asleep at night.
What’s that I hear you say? ‘I do all this and still struggle to get much shuteye’. As with all other parts of our overall health, it is vital we work through each issue, and every single symptom is a process of elimination. As a long-term sufferer of insomnia, it does get worse as we age.
Right now, I am struggling with bursitis – in both shoulders! – so of course, there is little sleep going on. So, I must be sure to get any extra rest I need, try sleeping on my back – not easy – take pain relief for the hopefully short time I have this problem – also not easy to get – argh! I just need to keep my cool and get whatever I can. It’s a short-term problem. Usually.
What does work for me, more often than not, is making an effort to create an environment conducive to sleep. I close the curtains, place the salt lamp on, put my phone away at least an hour before bed; then take a guided meditation. It’s about setting myself up for success.
Sure, sometimes you win and then there will be times, you’ll be wrestling that pillow all night. But tomorrow is another night. It’s important not to stress if you miss a night. That just makes it a whole lot worse when trying to achieve shuteye the following night….put your zen cap on.
Ultimately, sleep is essential for both our physical and mental wellbeing. It’s important to prioritise sleep and make sure we are getting the recommended hours of sleep per night or the amount that suits you. By taking care of our sleep, we can improve our overall health and wellbeing.
Pass the lavender oil, darling.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information only, and does not constitute health or medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your physical or mental health, seek immediate medical attention.