Sleep. It’s the pillar of well-being, it’s something we all do, and it’s crucial to our lives but quite often, we underestimate the importance of good quality sleep and how much this can affect us.
It’s World Sleep Day and we thought it was the perfect time to reach out to some fabulous sleep experts to talk about how sleep might impact your everyday life (and you might not even know it), along with a few tips on getting your best night’s sleep!
Poor eating habits that result in weight gain over time
“Lack of enough sleep is the reason most people are gaining weight without recognizing it. Sleeping affects leptin and ghrelin, hormones that control hunger and fullness. When you have had enough to eat, leptin tells your brain you’ve eaten enough. When you lack enough sleep, the brain reduces the levels of leptin hormones and instead increases the ghrelin hormone, which stimulates your appetite.
The ghrelin surge and leptin reduction explain why it is easier to overeat at night or why you may be tempted to snack at night when you are yet to sleep. You will also have a high affinity for foods loaded with empty calories or rich in carbohydrates instead of healthier options.
The cycle continues. When you fail to sleep properly through the night, you wake up feeling tired, which affects your ability or motivation to exercise. You are more prone to skip workouts, and the reduced physical activity will also contribute to weight gain.” says Nicole Eichelberger, BSM Certified Sleep Expert.
“One-way sleep may be causing an issue is in your ability to manage your weight effectively and the daily food choices you make. If you are getting insufficient sleep and feeling stressed for long periods of time your body is less likely to burn fat effectively. Ghrelin and Leptin (the bodies appetite and weight regulating hormones) are responsible for appetite and hunger signals and when sleep deprived ghrelin levels will respond by primarily rising and sending signals to the brain ‘requesting’ comfort food like refined carbohydrates & refined sugars,” says Naomi Holbrook Health, Wellbeing & Lifestyle Transformation Expert.
It can lead to decreased productivity/motivation
“Your sleeping habits will also influence your productivity. When you don’t get enough rest through sleep, your normal body functioning will also get affected. You will find it hard to focus, remain attentive, and be less vigilant. Therefore, tasks you would have done easily before now demand a lot of mental energy and concentration you cannot meet. Also, you are more prone to make errors, and you are more likely to overreact due to stress and irritability. Sleep deprivation will affect your productivity, creeping up on your career,” says Nicole Eichelberger, BSM Certified Sleep Expert.
“Sleep is essential for overall health and wellbeing as it allows the body time to repair and rejuvenate itself. Sleep also regulates the body’s hormones, and is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Lack of sleep can have a severe impact on mood, memory and cognitive bodily function, and can lead to poor performance in day to day activities amongst other things” says Zara Kenyon, wellness expert at Cannaray CBD
Sleep can seriously affect our mood
“Sleep is definitely nectar for the mind. A lack of sleep affects our mood and emotional health. Worrying causes poor sleep, which contributes to greater anxiety and then further sleep difficulties. This can become a cycle and other things start to be affected like concentration, productivity and relationships. We become irritated, snappy and frustrated. Repetitive negative and unhelpful thinking is typical of a tired and worn-out person. The more exhausted we are, the likelihood our mind starts to catastrophise, jump to conclusions and make the situation ten times worse.” Says Mind coach Alison Blackler
You become less empathetic, and it can affect your relationships
“You may become less patient, less empathic and you overact to situations. Parents tell me over and over again that they feel like they have no time to feel present for their partner and sometimes children. I’ve seen parents at breaking point, as soon as the kids go to bed the parents go to bed as they know they will be up so much in the night…this leads to a lack of intimacy.
Sleep really is so important to every aspect of our lives, once we are sleep deprived we realise how important sleep is. I often hear ‘I wish we would have done this sooner’ they look refreshed they have a bounce of energy, they eat better, they react to situations rationally- everyone is happier and content. Sleep is never perfect, but my aim is to improve sleep in order for the family to function better rather than just surviving. I’ve of-the witnessed parents looking so much younger when they are refreshed! Lack of sleep is extremely detrimental to everything!” says Emma Roberts, a sleep expert and founder of Dear Mama.
It can seriously affect your driving
“Did you know that lack of sleep is as bad for driving as drinking alcohol? In just the same way as alcohol, driving while drowsy affects your judgement, decision-making skills, risk-taking behaviour, and slows your reaction time.
Here’s the other problem – microsleeps. Research shows that people who drive while tired have little microsleeps, where they nod off for either a fraction of a second or up to 30 seconds. This can have catastrophic results. By the time you start yawning – it’s too late – you should not be driving.
You may not be aware that tiredness is affecting your driving so badly. We can all be stoical especially when we need to get to work – but night shifts, shift patterns, insomnia, interrupted sleep, sleep debt, sleep disorders, medication, alcohol and hangovers can all impinge on our ability to drive safely – and significantly increase the risk of a road traffic accident (RTA). Have you recently had any knocks or prangs, speeding tickets or cautions? Could this be because sleep deprivation is affecting your driving?” says Dr Deborah Lee, Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.
How to recognise poor sleep
“You can track how many hours you sleep and then gauge the quality of your sleep. You should sleep for at least 6 to eight hours. But if you sleep for 8 hours, but of low-quality sleep, you will still be sleep deprived. Some symptoms that show you are not sleeping enough are fatigue even right after waking up, difficulty getting out of bed, feeling tired and irritable, poor memory” says Nicole Eichelberger, BSM Certified Sleep Expert.
Here are some tips on how to improve your sleep…
“People often talk about not getting enough sleep like it is something to brag about, about how busy they have been and how well they can function even when low on sleep. However, sleep debt is often paid in high interest, and besides the above effect, it can cause your body to crash.
You can improve your sleep by avoiding caffeine and caffeinated drinks in the afternoon, preferably from 2 p.m. also, do not exercise right before bed. However, this varies from one person to another, as some get better sleep when they exercise before bed. Avoid eating right before getting into bed as it can cause GERD or heartburn, affecting your sleep quality.” says Nicole Eichelberger, BSM Certified Sleep Expert.
“Try to work evening catch-ups and your morning routine around an eight-hour sleep window – a time you ‘protect’, no matter how full your diary gets. You might struggle to drift off after a busy, buzzy day, so try winding down with a book and a cup of chamomile tea an hour before bed, or consider night-time CBD products to ensure you get the recommended amount of sleep” says Zara Kenyon, wellness expert at Cannaray CBD
“A tip to improve your sleep, would be try and capture your negative thoughts by writing them down. Then ask, if the thought is true or not? Or try two columns – what is in my control and what is out of my control. This may start to organise your negative thoughts and over time will help you feel more relaxed and in charge of your mind,” says Mind coach Alison Blackler.
“Aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night, this is a baseline for healthy adults and start your day with a protein rich breakfast, this will keep you fuller for longer therefore stabilising insulin levels to lower the likelihood of craving (and giving into) refined carbohydrates and sugars later in the day which will be adding to your daily calories significantly,” says Naomi Holbrook Health, Wellbeing & Lifestyle Transformation Expert.