Everyone knows that sleep is important, really important. I’ve covered this topic in a past post as well, but what really happens to our bodies and our minds when we don’t get enough sleep? And how can we really make the effort to get enough on a regular basis?
Let’s be Honest
Chances are you’re not getting enough sleep. Now that we can all admit this to ourselves we can move forward. Simply “going to bed” can often mean getting into bed and watching Netflix for 3 hours, exploring Pinterest on your phone, or playing the YouTube game where one cat video leads to another….and another….and….you get it.
What Happens to Your Mind. The American Pyschological Association also lists symptoms here.
- Unable to multitask
- Irritability and moodiness sinks in
- Easily distracted
- Slower speech and information recognition
- Lack of empathy and lowered emotional responses – you know, when it looks like you’re not listening or caring and people ask “you tired?”
- It’s hard to remember things
- Lack of concentration
- Persistent clumsiness
- Lack of motivation
- Increased stress
What Happens to Your Body. As if the emotional and mental symptoms above aren’t enough, our body also goes through a number of chemical responses and processes when we do or don’t get enough sleep. Our bodies are triggered to release hormones at different times of the day and many of them when we sleep. Children especially need enough sleep to allow growth hormones to be released efficiently. The protein prolactin is also released during sleep which aids in immune system regulation and cell growth and cell cycle proceses, which down the line help aid in water and salt balance within the body.
Ever notice how hungry you feel after a restless night? That’s because hormones that help regulate our appetite and glucose levels are often released while we sleep. I’ve touched on the roles of ghrelin and leptin before but mostly we can take note that ghrelin is the hormone responsible for our hunger and instense cravings, it’s the meal initiator, while leptin is the hormone known for balancing your bodies energy stores, it’s also referred to as the fullness hormone as it triggers your brain that you are done eating and satisfied, it’s the meal ender.
Common Myths about Sleep
- Everyone needs the same amount – actually people can differ in the amount of sleep needed. Most adults need 8 hours of sleep to function properly but some can avoid most symptoms listed above after 6 hours, while others really need 9 or 10. Take time and note of the balance you need.
- The older you get the less sleep you need – not true. Throughout your adult life you will still need the same required amount of sleep, however, it may be more difficult to sleep straight through the night like you could when you were younger.
- Quantity over quality – I have to point out that just because you got 10 hours of sleep doesn’t always guarentee you’ll feel super rested. The Quality of our sleep matters, too! It’s important for our bodies to get into R.E.M. sleep or rapid eye motion. This is when our brain is super active and cells are regenerated in our brains. Just because YOU are asleep doesn’t mean parts of your body shut down. Think of your brain as a puppy that’s at home all day while you’re awake and its just WAITING for you to go to sleep so it can go outside and run around.
- You can easily adjust to a new sleep schedule but staying up late or sleeping in much longer – false. The body CAN adjust to a new sleep schedule over time but only at a rate of about 1-2 hours per day. That means if you’re about to work a night shift from a regular 9-5 day, it’s going to take your body some time before you feel “normal” and rested again.
Yeah – I lost sleep over my blog for you guys – ok not entirely true – but for the past week I haven’t been getting enough sleep. I get up around 4:30 every morning to hit the gym, yes I am crazy but I also don’t know my own name until after I’ve chugged a cup of black coffee – thank god for self starting coffee pots. This past week I wasn’t going to bed until 10, sometimes 11pm. Yeah, that’s maaaaaybe 5 1/2 or 6 hours of sleep a night. YIKES! Here’s what happened:
- Mentally drained and exhausted
- Moody and irritated – just ask my boyfriend
- A complete lack of emphathy or symptahy – I’m pretty sure “suck it up” was my motto during this past week
- Complete absense of motivation
- Excuses GALORE – suddenly all my long-term and short-term fitness goals were now “unrealistic” and “unnattainable”
- EXTREME hunger throughout the day especially from 3-6pm, my stomach ACHED and I couldn’t eat enough after I got home
- Sugar cravings – had you presented me with a cake, I would have punched a baby penguin to eat the entire thing
- Fast food cravings
- Depression – after about the 4th day, I was ready to give up on everything, my diet, working out, I just wanted to go drink beer and was already planning happy hours in my head
Then last night I actually got enuogh sleep. Today is like a WHOLE NEW WOOOORLD!! My motivation is back, I’m ready, I WANT to eat healthy and I’m not starving like crazy after all my healthy snacks.
Realistic Ways to Get Enough Sleep
So now that we’ve went over some of the science and personal experiences of sleep deprivation, how can we all realistically GO TO BED ON TIME??????
Here are my suggestions:
- Set a time to GET into bed – if you know you like to spend 30 minutes shooting aliens on your phone, then alot the time for it
- Go to bed around the SAME TIME every night – yes even on the weekends, try not to venture too far off from your normal routine. When I stay up to 1am on a Friday night, it doesn’t seem to matter how much I sleep in, my body is exhausted and confused
- Do things that make you tired an hour before bedtime – read a book, light candles, take a bubble bath, listen to soothing music, brew some tea, get away from computer and TV lights, let your mind calm down from the busy day.
- Be strict – it’s easy and certainly ok every now and then to make an exception and head to a late event on a weeknight, but if you do this all the time, you won’t be alert or happy the next day.
- Keep track of how you feel when you DO get enough sleep – sometimes the motivation around bedtime can be hard. We have the night self and the morning self. Getting in the habit of going to bed even when you don’t want to will make hearing that alarm clock in the moring less awful.
- Look for apps to help track your sleep and monitor your Circadian Rhythm