Sleep is essential to good health and lack of it does more than just make you feel tired. This particularly hit home for me when my 18 year old son came home late and I mean really late – several nights in a row – and in typical mom fashion I couldn’t sleep until he was home safe. Running on only a few hours a sleep a night, and the wrong kind of sleep too (sleep during the morning or daylight hours is not as restful as sleep during the night) can wreak havoc with your mood, not to mention the fact that you just can’t think clearly.
What I noticed was that sleep deprivation really didn’t affect me that much on day one but was pretty noticeable by day two, on day three I was feeling lightheaded and miserable, like I had been drinking all night. My generally optimistic outlook turned bleak, everything seemed depressing and I was crying at the drop of a hat. No wonder sleep deprivation was and still is used as a form of torture. There’s just no way your brain can function properly without it.
And, research is bearing this out. Study after study shows people who are sleep deprived (get less than six hours of sleep a night) are less alert, less able to handle stress and less able to do everyday tasks. On the other hand, they’re more likely to have conflicts at work, develop chronic illness (high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke), make errors at work, get into a car accident, have trouble remembering and thinking and be depressed. Yes, sleep is essential to your mental health. When it comes to watching your weight and your diet, sleep is more important than you think. Certainly someone who is tired and fatigued is more likely to make poor food choices, eating junk food and grab-and-go sugary snacks than someone who isn’t tired. Perhaps that’s why obesity is higher among the chronically sleep-deprived than those who get their zzzz’s.
A prime example: think of what college kids generally call the “Freshmen 10”, the extra ten pounds of weight most freshmen gain their first year of being away from home. Most of this is attributed to the extra calories of pizza and sandwiches wolfed down generally between the hours of 11 pm and 2 am. College students are notorious for keeping late hours and getting little sleep, at the same time they eat more and often exercise less. And, they aren’t the only people falling into this kind of sleeping and eating pattern. Any adult, any age with this type of lifestyle will suffer the same fate.
In fact, a recent Columbia University study found people who are sleep deprived eat 300 calories more than their well-rested counterparts. Furthermore, what do you think was the food most often chosen by those who opt out of sleep? Ice cream.
But, even if you don’t eat late at night, missing out on your sleep can still alter your weight by disrupting your hormone system. Several studies show people who don’t get enough sleep have higher levels of the hormone gherlin. Gherlin stimulates hunger and promotes the accumulation of fat, particularly around the waist.
Unfortunately our super high tech world where you can talk to anyone, play games or find anything you want 24/7 only makes it harder for teens, young people and even adults like me to get their recommended quota of shut eye.
What should you do? Listen to your body and make it a point to get some good, restful sleep (it may be hard at first). So, turn off that cell phone, shut down the computer and close down those video games. Then give yourself 20 minutes to wind down and relax, the old fashion way – read a magazine, do some deep breathing or just sit and clear your mind. Remember that old adage: Get some sleep and you’ll feel better in the morning – it’s really true.