If you are having problems with getting down to the weight you want or are trying to find new ways to help your depression and anxiety sleep could be the answer.
Many of us opt to cut short on sleep for many different reasons. Reasons vary but might be because you are working on professional goals, social life, or you might think that getting those last few things done on the computer will make the next day easier. Roughly 50 to 70 million US adults suffer from a sleep disorder or report insufficient sleep habitually, so we are amongst friends. When on a Netflix bender or while staring at our phones from 10:00-11:00 pm on Facebook, we rarely take the time to think of the consequences of our actions. After all, we aren’t doing anything that bad. It’s not like we are taking drugs or driving drunk with a panther in our back seat. However, maybe you are putting the panther behind the wheel. The truth is that without proper sleep, you are not as empathetic, joyful, or fun to be around you have a greater likelihood for mental wellness issues and a greater susceptibility to diseases like Diabetes. A mound of research says so in addition to your mom. All joking aside, we are putting ourselves at progressive risk for several serious issues that can plague us. So what is the difference in 5 hours of sleep compared to >7 hours of sleep?
Poor Memory- Now and Later
Your brain is the only part of your body that cannot function without sleep. Sleep restores its function and allows it to perform necessary cleaning operations and store short-term memories and long-term memories. Need to do well on a test or doing a presentation at work? Get good sleep for several days in a row, and you will be that much closer to nailing it. However, cleaning is the most important function that occurs when we sleep. What do I mean by cleaning? Like the rest of your body, the brain has waste products, and when we sleep, we do our best cleaning. The Amyloid-β protein triggers a cascade of events in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid-β hangs out in the space surrounding the cells of the brain. In tissues like muscle, lymph vessels return excess proteins to the blood to get rid of them. In the brain, there is no lymphatic system. Instead, the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain acts like our lymph system and helps remove proteins that build-up, including amyloid-β. BUT you have to get into a deep sleep for that actually to happen. When you enter a sleep cycle which is normally about 3 hours in total, the blood demands to your brain decrease, and your brain can clean itself easily because it actually shrinks a bit. Think of it like this if you stuff your washing machine to the breaking point with sheets and dirt-filled pants, it is more likely that you will have a machine full of lightly dirt-ridden sheets and pants. You didn’t give the clothes the space to move and get rid of all their crap. You need to get into at least two good cleaning cycles, which means you need to be in bed for more than 6 hours to make that happen.
I wish I could buy bigger pants this year said no one ever. Sleep research found a direct relationship between sleep duration and body mass index, which is your weight divided by your height. There was a lot of fancy math involved, but it boiled down to this. A 160-pound woman getting 8 hours of sleep and then decreasing her sleep to 5 hours per night will be apt to gain an average of 8 pounds. Conversely, the answer to losing those pesky 8 pounds might be as simple as getting 8 hours of sleep each night. Why would sleep affect your body like this? You are tired, so you don’t move as much, and your eating hormones are out of wack with less sleep. Hormones help control your eating, and when your brain doesn’t get the rest it needs, you eat an average of 300 calories more daily. This all goes into why you have a 42% greater chance of obesity, 69% more likely to have high blood pressure, 40% more likely to have diabetes with five hours or less of sleep.
Depression and Anxiety
At some point, we have all experienced being around someone who clearly needed more sleep last night to be a nicer human. Maybe it was even the person you see in the mirror regularly. As those days add up into weeks and months of poor sleep, our one-day cranky can become a full mood disorder. Part of this is that we need to be rested to engage the part of our brain that helps us control the emotional part of our brain. Functional MRI studies show that our brain’s emotional part is more active. Without sleep, we not only respond emotionally, but we also think negatively too. In one particular study, subjects who slept four hours per night showed declining levels of optimism and sociability. Believe it or not, researchers have repeatedly found that optimism is associated with better emotional and physical wellbeing. If you find yourself a sleep-deprived emotional pessimist, you can focus on your sleep hygiene to see lasting improvements.
Sleep hygiene is all about creating the best environment for you to fall asleep. Not just at the moment, your head hit the pillow but the hours leading up to bedtime. I will discuss sleep hygiene next week, but here are a couple of tips for improved sleep this week.
- Black out 30 minutes before bed – No phones, TV, or laptop. Just you and a book. Blue light is a brain stimulant and can lead you to feel wired once you turn your device off. Baby step your way to 30 min. Try 5 min today and the rest of this week.
- Stop thinking – Count your breaths. Try your best to focus on relaxing your body with each breath starting at your feet and working your way up.
- Keep your room cool – Science suggests that cooler temps make it easier to fall asleep.
Action Step: Pick out one of the tips for sleep hygiene. Make a SMART goal for the one you pick and write it down next to your bed.
Looking Ahead: Next week, I will discuss sleep hygiene and how to make that perfect environment to get the rest that will allow you to slay your goals for lifestyle change and everything else in between.