In today's overscheduled always connected world, you’re probably not surprised to learn that we’re getting less and less sleep. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than one third of Americans are failing to get enough sleep on a regular basis, which as you can imagine, is affecting both our physical and mental wellbeing adversely.
How Sleep Affects Us
Sufficient sleep is important for our brain health, with studies showing that rest plays an important role in many brain functions like memory, for instance, strengthening neural connections, and reorganizing the information we have come across during the day. It helps to reduce pain and inflammation as well.
It also helps keep diseases such as Alzheimer’s at bay, by helping clear toxins from the brain. And it’s necessary for cognitive function, decision making, and driving. When we are tired, multitasking becomes harder and we can become more prone to accidents and injuries.
Sleep plays an important role in creativity; studies have shown that REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, an intense dreaming stage, boosts creativity and problem-solving skills. However, when we are sleep deprived, our brain opts for lighter sleep and hence, less REM sleep. Routine functions that we do at work or school can become much more challenging and time-consuming when we don’t get enough rest.
Fatigue is a primary reason why we become moody, irritable, impatient and unable to concentrate. The body will have slower responses and reactions because it is too tired to function normally. Drowsiness becomes the norm of the day as the body slowly shuts down in need of rest and rejuvenation.
Sleep deprivation can lead to sickness. Studies have shown that lack of sleep appears to lower white blood cell count, which is an indication of decreased immune function. This means you may be more susceptible to illnesses when you are tired.
Proper human growth and development are linked with sleep. For instance, newborns spend most of their hours sleeping which is vital for proper growth. It is essential for the production of hormones and cells and the metabolic functions. And while the sleep time will reduce as they develop through childhood to adults, they still need deep sleep for healthy growth.
Benefits of a Good night’s Sleep
You’ve heard the expression "catching some beauty sleep" and with good reason. Insufficient sleep can wreak havoc on appearance. Dark circles under the eyes and a pale complexion are telltale signs of being overtired. Improve your sleep habits and you will notice a difference when you look in the mirror.
Lowers Stress Levels
When you sleep, the body will have a better response to the release of insulin and cortisol and balance the serotonin-dopamine seesaw -- aiding in the steadying of moods which in turn encourage a better response to stress thus reducing the risk of depression.
Researchers have found that lack of sleep affects our metabolism. Sleep-deprived individuals have a decreased ability to manage blood sugar levels and also may find themselves hungrier (particularly for high carbohydrate, i.e comfort foods). So, sleep more for a healthier metabolism.
Improved Physical Response
How fast you react or respond to an issue depends on your physical and mental state. You should be alert and responsive to your environment. Not catching enough shut-eye make your movements sluggish and you may even cause you to tremble. Issues of memory lapses and even hallucinations can develop if you go for days without sleep.
A Functional Mind
It is said that the mind never sleeps, that it’s at work even during sleep which is why we dream. However, the functions of the brain are so intricate that it knows the importance of sleep and will release hormones that signal the body to take a rest, and it too will be rested though still working. So, if you want to have a robust, energetic, and alert mental state, get enough sleep!
How can I improve my sleep?
It’s easy to understand why sleep is crucial to our wellbeing but what may not be so obvious is why we’re not getting enough sleep in the first place sleep. Did you know that bruxism, the medical term for excessive and unconscious teeth grinding, affects 1 in 5 adults in the US every year. Because teeth grinding generally occurs while we sleep, it often goes undetected but is a leading cause of sleep disruption. Other telling symptoms include jaw pain and waking up with a headache. While there is no medication currently available to treat bruxism, dental experts agree the single, most effective treatment is to wear a dental grind guard while sleeping. Dental grind guards are removable and generally worn only when needed.
The Bottom-Line: Better Sleep = A Better YouSleep is key to good health. To ensure that you are getting a good night’s sleep maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising regularly and if you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, consider wearing a dental grind guard at night to treat your bruxism and minimize sleep disruption.