Sleep is a basic human need, like food, drink, and oxygen. Like these other needs, sleep plays an integral part in good health and well-being throughout your life. But these days, a lot of people are sleep deprived than not.
Sleep deficiency can physically and mentally harm you in myriad ways. Getting too little sleep can cause hallucination, psychosis, depression, loss of productivity, weight gain and long-term memory impairment. Too little shut-eye has also been linked to chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and bipolar disorder. Total sleep deprivation can seriously impair cognitive functions, cause high blood pressure and have profound effects on the immune system.
Inadequate sleep even disrupts your genes. Sleeplessness can significantly alter the activity of normal human genes. A study conducted at the University of Surrey, England found that just one week of abnormal, insufficient sleep affects the activity of more than 700 of our genes. The genes affected help to control important biological functions like stress, metabolism, inflammation, immune system and circadian rhythms.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent and treat sleep deprivation. To improve your sleep quality:
Reduce Liquid Consumption in the Evening
Try not to drink fluids too close to bedtime. Consuming lots of fluids may increase nighttime awakenings due to urination affecting the quality of your sleep. Also avoid nicotine, caffeine (found in coffee, cola, tea, and chocolate) and alcohol for four to six hours before bedtime. Nicotine and caffeine have stimulating effects that last as long as eight hours and can wreak havoc on your nightly slumber. And while alcohol may help bring on sleep, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
Exercise — But Not in the Evening
Physical activity can help sleep you better at night. However, exercising in the evening or too close to bed can affect your sleep cycle adversely. Late exercises disrupt your stable heart rate which has an impact on restorative sleep. Working out also releases stress hormones that cause your body to stay alert.
Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Cave
Setting up your bedroom for a good night’s involves keeping it quiet, cool and dark. Your bed should also be comfortable – it should leave enough room to toss and turn comfortably. The pillows and mattress should provide enough support and accommodate your sleeping style. Consider going for the best-rated mattress on the market.
Keep Regular Hours
Being consistent with your sleep and waking times sets the internal body clock to expect rest at a certain time every night. Try to stick to your sleep schedule on weekends and days off. Sleeping in late and staying up late on such days can disrupt your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Minimize Screen Time and Blue Light Exposure
The blue light emitted by your TV, computer, tablet or phone has an impact on your circadian rhythm. It tricks your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime and reduces hormones like melatonin which help you sleep and relax.
You can minimize the impact by turning off electronic devices an hour before bed or using a blue light filter such as f.lux.
These simple tips will help you treat and prevent sleep deprivation. However, if consistently applying them doesn’t work, see your physician and discuss your sleep problems.