by Zara Mohammed, Health Columnist
Published in Health on 10th April, 2019
Have you been feeling a bit foggy lately and are looking for some ideas to help improve your quality of sleep? Not getting enough sleep can affect you in more ways than you may realise!
We all know that if we don't allow our bodies the rest it needs and get enough hours sleep in, that the following day we can find ourselves feeling tired and functioning a little slower, but did you know that poor sleep can actually cause you to gain weight too? I bet that woke you up - Nobody wants to worry about weight gain!
Keep reading to find out about more surprising effects that are caused by a lack of sleep, and discover some ideas to help you make sure that you are giving your body the best quality sleep possible.
Sleep deprivation is a major public safety hazard, especially on the road. Did you know that feeling drowsy can slow down your reaction time as much as if you were drunk driving?
Sleep plays an extremely significant part in your ability to think and to learn. If you don't get enough of it your attention span and alertness will be affected, along with being able to concentrate, being able to reason, and being able to solve problems. All of these lead to your learning being seriously impaired.
It's pretty obvious when you think about it; if you haven't had enough sleep then your energy levels are going to be lower, but not only will lack of sleep make you feel sleepy, it will in fact lower your libido so tat you may not even want to have sex.
Your face will of course look more drawn because you are tired, but more alarmingly, a chronic loss of sleep will actually age your skin, creating dark circles under your eyes and fine lines. When you deprive yourself of the sleep that you need, your body produces more cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
Too much of this will break down your skin collagen, which is what gives it its elasticity and allows it to remain looking young and smooth for longer. If you are not getting enough sleep then you body may also not be producing enough human growth hormone, which helps to thicken your skin and bones.
When you are not getting enough sleep your hunger and appetite will increase, making you eat much more and be susceptible to obesity. In 2004 a study showed that people who slept less than 6 hours as opposed to 7 to 9 hours a day were 30% more likely to become obese.
This is because not only does lack of sleep make you hungry, it also makes you hungry for the kinds of food that are going to make you gain weight fast, like high fat and high carb foods.
It is important that you get the correct amount of hours sleep, but the quality of the sleep you get is just as important. Here are some tips to help you make sure that you sleep like a baby.
Your circadian rhythm is your body's internal clock. This is a natural system that helps you to regulate your sleep by causing you to feel sleepy or wakeful.
It is a system, which is naturally controlled by light, and this is what makes it difficult for our bodies to maintain sleep and waking regularity because of the ways in which we are able to control the light we use when we are awake and asleep.
Often our bodies don't recognise the times it is meant to be resting or active. You can help your internal body clock by doing the following things.
Steer clear of drinks like tea and coffee that contain caffeine, which is of course a stimulant. Avoid eating or drinking chocolate too as it contains a lot of sugar, which is sure to wake you up and give you energy, and not make you sleepy.
Also be aware that some painkillers can have a similar effect. Try not to consume alcohol 2-3 hours before you go to sleep, as it is sure to wake you up in the middle of the night. If you need to eat something before you go to sleep go ahead because hunger pangs will wake you up in the night, but try not to eat large quantities before bed because digesting too much food will lead to a restless sleep.
If you find that you are restless in your sleep, and when you wake you feel as though you have been up half the night tossing and turning, there are a few things you can do to help relax you before bed.
Whenever you feel restless or fidgety, or have nervous or anxious energy, it can be difficult to sleep. Make sure that you get enough physical exercise everyday to release tension in your body, and you will be able to sleep more soundly at night.
It doesn't matter when you exercise, how you exercise, or how much you exercise, just so long as you are incorporating some physical activity into your day you should find your quality of sleep improves.
To increase or ensure sufficient daily activity you can try walking to the next bus stop or getting off one or two stops early. You can walk up and down stairs instead of using lifts or escalators. You can pick up your walking pace to get your heart pumping, or even have a boogie in your living room to your favourite music!
Sometimes the quality of your sleep could be severely affected by what you are sleeping on. Something as simple as changing the type of pillow you use or flipping your mattress could change the way you sleep entirely.
Remember, your mattress should feel comfortable and be supportive. If your mattress is old, it may well have exceeded its life expectancy. Mattresses are usually good for about 10 years. A good night's sleep might mean having to fork out for a new one if you have had yours for longer, or if you purchased it second hand.