Why do we need to sleep?
Apart from falling asleep standing up in the queue in Tesco, sleep deprivation can make you feel grumpy, snappy, clumsy, teary and weary – not the makings of another Disney blockbuster but a zombie –like state where you also have a memory of a goldfish with bags under your eyes that would fail to fit in the hand luggage limit guide for EasyJet!
A wonderful night’s sleep can make you feel refreshed, energised, happy and able to take on the new day with fresh enthusiasm, a bad night’s sleep will leave you longing for bedtime all day.
Adequate sleep is part of a healthy lifestyle, as important as nutrition and physical activity. Deep sleep helps your brain prepare for the next day forming pathways to help you learn and remember, it helps you to make decisions and be creative. Your heart and blood vessels heal and your immune system functions at its best when you’re fully rested. Have you noticed when you are tired that you catch every cold going? Great, a red nose to match your baggy eyes; attractive!
Lack of sleep makes us obese!
Sleep deprivation can also increase the chance of you becoming obese. This is because the hormone ghrelin which tells us when we’re hungry is increased and the hormone leptin which tells us when we’re full is decreased so we want to eat more. So, now we have a red nose, baggy eyes and can’t fit into our clothes anymore! Sleep affects how the body reacts to insulin which is a hormone controlling blood glucose or sugar levels. Sleep deprivation results in a higher than normal blood glucose level which could lead to diabetes.
Have you ever driven somewhere and not remembered how you got there or sat in a meeting and not have a clue what was said? You could have experienced a microsleep which are brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re awake- read that bit again, you just suffered a microsleep!
If you regularly lose sleep the sleep loss adds up and is called sleep debt. If you lose 2 hours sleep a night this equates to 14 hours sleep lost a week. After several nights of losing sleep your ability to function suffers as if you’ve not slept for a day or two!
If I asked you “Do you snore?” you will answer “No, of course I don’t!” How do you know? You’re asleep! Approximately 40% of us snore, I don’t, obviously! Snoring can be one of the biggest reasons for arguments with couples; you’re desperately trying to sleep but you have your other- half snorting and snoring like a warthog next to you!
Snoring can be caused by laying on your back, allergies, colds, being overweight or taking sedatives such as sleeping pills or antihistamines. Try sleeping on your side (it’s hard to turn a snorer over though!) If you have allergies don’t allow pets in the bedroom and wash your bedclothes/soft toys regularly to kill dust mites and mould spores. There are pharmaceutical aids available such as nasal sprays and nasal strips. If all else fails; separate rooms!
Snoring can be caused by Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, where the snorer will stop breathing for a few seconds up to two minutes. This decreases the oxygen in the blood and will result in the sufferer feeling very tired and suffering from headaches the next day. If you suspect this is the case then have a chat with your GP.
So, how much sleep is enough?
It varies from person to person but the general recommendations are;
New-borns -16 – 18 hours
Pre- school children – 11-12 hours
School age children – at least 10 hours
Teenagers- 9-10 hours
Adults 7-8 hours
How do you know if you have sleep deprivation?
Keep a sleep diary for a couple of weeks. Write down how much sleep you had at night, how alert and rested you felt in the morning and how sleepy you felt during the day. Compare the amount of sleep you have to the average recommended amount.
Tips for a goodnights sleep