We hear all the time that sleep is important and we need to foster healthy sleep habits, but do you know why sleep is important? Researchers have been studying the effects of sleep deprivation symptoms for decades and there are hundreds of findings that demonstrate a link between poor sleep and various health impairments.
With the high prevalence of sleep-related research that continues to come out, many people are aware that more severe (and sometimes permanent) health consequences come as a result of chronic sleep issues. Even though people are aware of the effects from sleep deprivation, the CDC reports that 1 in 3 adults struggle with chronic sleep issues. That is an alarming prevalence. People who don’t experience chronic sleep issues are not immune to the effects of poor sleep either, did you know that just one poor night of sleep can have impacts on your health?
This article attempts to answer the question of – why is sleep important by addressing more than just the commonly known effects.
Immediate Sleep Deprivation Symptoms
We’ve all been there and had at least one night of poor sleep. It happens and it’s not the end of the world, but even one poor night of sleep can have consequences including –
Increased Stress Response
You’ll recall from previous articles that we’ve discussed the autonomic nervous system in great detail. The lack of sleep can cause increased sensitivity in the sympathetic nervous system, or the “fight or flight” part of the autonomic nervous system. This means that you will feel stressed quicker compared to days where you’ve had a solid night’s rest.
Aches and Pains
Research has found that lack of sleep can lead to an increase in headaches and stomach pains. Interestingly, these findings were more common in female participants compared to male participants.
This is one of the most well-known consequences associated with poor quality sleep. Our brain rejuvenates itself while we rest and if this process is impeded then we can face impaired judgement, lack of alertness, and struggle with retaining information. It’s interesting that the media often shows college students pulling all-nighters to study for a big test because the research shows this is the worst method of studying.
Long-term Sleep Deprivation Symptoms
Chronic sleep deprivation can cause serious chronic illness such as –
- Cardiovascular disease
- Weight-related issues
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Colorectal cancer
Research has found that these conditions occur in otherwise health individuals who simply struggle with chronic sleep impairments. Further, the CDC compiled sleep data on people who suffer from chronic conditions and found that people who regularly sleep more than 7 hours each night suffer less than those who regularly sleep less than 7 hours each night.
Causes for Sleep Impairments
The cause for sleep impairment can stem from a number of sources, but it’s important for people who suffer with sleep disturbance to try and locate the source of the issue. Some people will have an occasional poor night of sleep due to hectic schedules or increased stress. Others may suffer with sleep impairment more regularly due to chronic conditions such as pain. Below are some identified risk factors for sleep abnormalities.
We hope that it is now clear how important sleep really is to the overall well-being. If you are struggling with sleep at this time, have no fear, there are treatment options, and early treatment is key so that chronic health conditions don’t arise.
One of the easiest treatment options is a weighted blanket. Research has repeatedly demonstrated positive effects with weighted blanket use. While the mechanisms of actions surrounding weighted blankets are still a bit unexplored, it is hypothesized that weighted blankets help promote better sleep by reducing sympathetic nervous system responses, or decreasing stress. As seen in the above infographic, many risk factors for sleep abnormalities have stress as a core contributor, so weighted blanket use would mitigate these risks.
Weighted blankets are not a cure all, however. Some risk factors aren’t caused by stress but rather medical conditions or environmental factors. In these cases, training your body to sleep better is the best solution. Behavioral modification works by only laying down when you’re tired and if you can’t fall asleep within ten minutes, then you get up. Over time, your brain will associate your bed with sleep and falling asleep will be easier. When there are environmental factors, modifications will need to be made to make the environment more conducive for sleep such as using black out curtains or ear plugs.
One of the most challenging parts of sleep research is that healthy sleep looks different for different people. For example, some people naturally require less or more sleep than what is commonly reported as the “norm.” Therefore, if you’ve read this far and you are panicked over not getting at least seven hours, take into consideration the following checklist:
If you found yourself checking more boxes in the top half of the checklist, then your sleep is likely healthy. However, if you found yourself checking more of the bottom boxes, then it may be worth considering sleep solutions.