By Emsie Martin
When you haven’t slept well, you are tired and grumpy the next day. One or two nights of too little sleep will not be detrimental to your health, but a constant shortage of sleep can make you prone to serious medical conditions and cognitive dysfunction.
“Sleep is one of the cornerstones of your health and is as necessary for your wellbeing like food and water,” says Dr Irshaad Ibrahim, a neuropsychiatrist at the Constantia Sleep Centre. “The body repairs itself when you sleep.” If you do not get enough sleep, you run the risk of developing one of the following conditions:
Type 2 diabetes
Too little sleep makes your body produce less insulin (a hormone that regulates the blood sugar). At the same time the body produces more stress hormones (such as cortisol) to keep you awake. This makes it more difficult for the insulin to convert glucose into energy. When too much glucose remains in the body the risk of developing Type2 diabetes gets bigger.
In a study published in the journal Sleep researchers found that adults who slept only six hours per night were more prone to dehydration than those who slept eight hours a night. The reason was that the hormone vasopressin was released faster and later in the sleep cycle. If you wake up too early, you may miss the time when this hormone is released, which then disturbs the hydration levels.
A study published in the Journal of neuroscience suggests that sleep deprivation could damage your memory. Researchers discovered that a night of poor sleep can diminish the binding of raclopride and dopamine receptors in your brain. This binding is associated with increased tiredness and insomnia as well as the deterioration of cognitive function.
According to several studies loss of sleep can also increase your chances of obesity. The loss of sleep means that you are too tired to exercise, which means that you don’t burn enough calories to maintain a healthy weight. Too little sleep also disturbs the balance of important hormones that control your appetite, which means that you get hungry more often.
You don’t sleep enough if you:
- need an alarm to wake you;
- struggle to get out of bed in the morning;
- feel irritated and tense;
- have problems concentrating, or your memory is poor;
- often fall asleep in front of the TV;
- want to sleep after a good meal or after taking some alcohol;
- fall asleep within five minutes after getting into bed;
- feel sleepy when you drive;
- often want to take a nap in the afternoon;
- sleep in over weekends; and
- have dark rings under your eyes.
Dr Ebrahim’s hints for easier sleep:
- Keep the bedroom quiet, with good ventilation, and preferably use curtains to darken the room.
- Try to go to bed at the same time at night and to get up at the same time in the morning.
- Do not sleep during the day because this will disturb your normal sleeping pattern.
- Start a relaxation routine before bedtime: yoga, breathing, meditation, reading and soft music are good options.
- Switch off the TV and stay away from social media.
- Avoid caffeine before bedtime.
- Do your exercises in the morning rather than at night.
If you have a sleeping problem, complete the questionnaire at Perform an online Sleep Asssessment.
Sources and references http://www.sleepclinic.co.za/sleep_disorders/online_questionnaire.htm