Okay, let’s be honest, when was the last time you woke up feeling well-rested and refreshed. For most of us that would be quite a few zzz’s ago.
But you are not alone in this, a recent study by Philips showed that majority of the world’s population could use a bit more rest. Most people do recognize that poor sleep habits have an impact in multiple areas including appearance (looking tired 46%), (moody and irritable 41%), (motivation 39%) and concentration (39%). However, only 29% of people feel guilty about putting a good night’s rest on a backburner. So what gives ?
Research suggests that sleep affects all aspects of our lives starting from our health and relationships to our work success, therefore poor sleep quality should cannot be ignored anymore.
Discover, what are the top 5 signs that indicate that your sleep quality might need a complete makeover.
1. Mid-Day energy slumps
Let’s face it, we have all been there, it is just after lunch and we are hit with the dreaded mid-day slump. Nothing can help with this slump other than copious amounts of caffeine or sugary treats. But this mid-day slump might be indicative of something more sinister – poor sleep quality and all the side effects that accompany it.
There might be many causes for these energy slumps, such as nutrient deficiency (lacking iron, magnesium, vitamin D, B-12 or potassium), working shifts, poor sleep routine, etc. However, one of the main causes for daytime sleepiness is wilful sleep limitation due to demands at work and at home.
A study done by National Sleep Foundation found that lack of sleepiness is reaching epidemic proportions with about 20% of participants reporting that they regularly limit their sleep to 5 to 6 hours a day. On average, we need 8 – 10 hours of sleep every night to function at best capacity, but a majority of adults seem to sleep well below 8 hours, thus impacting their energy throughout the day.
So ask yourself this, how many hours are you sleeping each day and when was the last time you felt like you functioned at your 100%?
2. You keep waking up during the night
It is normal to wake up once or twice in the night. But if you find yourself constantly waking up, and then struggling to go back to sleep then that’s a sign of poor sleep quality and potentially underlying issues that needs your attention.
Some of the reasons this might happen include drinking caffeine or alcohol late in the day, a poor sleep environment, an undiagnosed sleep disorder, or another health condition. Constant disruption to your sleep cycle has a devastating effect on the quality of your sleep, even if you stay in bed for 8 hours or more!
You can reduce the number of times you wake up by adopting a healthy sleep routine, improving your sleep environment and being stricter with your diet and nutrition (we delve deeper into solutions to improve sleep in a few emails). But if the situation persists you might need to discuss this with your GP.
3. You catch cold too often
If you seem to keep getting the cold and flu bug all the time, your sleep quality could be to blame. Prolonged lack of sleep or disturbed sleep can disrupt your immune system as sleep and the circadian system have a strong regulatory influence on immune function.
While you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep. As if that was not enough, lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. This means if you are looking to strengthen your immunity, fixing your sleep issues might be one of the most effective and easiest first step!
4. Unexplained Weight Gain
There are many causes to weight gain such as poor diet, genetics, stress and underlying health conditions. However, poor sleep also unfortunately contributes to excessive weight gain! Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours a day tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of becoming obese than those who get 7 hours of high quality restorative sleep.
A fascinating study from researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that one week of sleeping about 5 hours a night led participants to consume 6% more calories and binge during the night, leading to weight gain. Sleep deprivation causes changes to hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. Sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone). The study also found that lack of sleep also affects what foods your body craves. And the answer was not very sweet – as sleep deprivation creates intensified cravings for foods high in fat and sugar.
5. Decreased Emotional Wellbeing
Given that a single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody the following day, it's not surprising that chronic sleep deprivation may lead to long-term mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
University of Pennsylvania researchers found that research subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood 1.
Not only does sleep affects our mood, but also our mood has a significant impact on our sleep. Anxiety & stress brings your body into an arousal/ alertness state making it harder to fall asleep. A study conducted in Sweden found that, “, stress in the form of a 'poor' psychosocial work environment doubled the risk of developing a sleep problem.” 2 Researchers seem to agree that hyperarousal is underlying reason for insomnia and other sleep disorders 3
To make things worse, once stress starts to affect sleep it seems to kick off a downward spiral where the lack of sleep affects person’s level of irritability and emotional wellbeing and vice versa. It’s a vicious cycle which is hard to break.
So, there you go!!!
If you recognise any of these symptoms it is important to take adequate steps to improve your sleep’s quantity and quality. Rememeber, even if you don’t have chronic sleep issues, taking steps to ensure adequate sleep will ensure improved emotional and physical wellbeing.
This is part one of our sleep series. Over the next few emails we will be delving into how poor sleep quality accelerates our aging process, before our experts break down their top tips and suggestions to improve sleep quality, so stay tuned – this will be a fascinating series, at the end of which we also have a surprise for you that we are sure you will love ( … our lips stay sealed until then)