Sleep, and especially sleep quality, significantly impacts our health, quality of life, and productivity in this modern age of technology. While sleep used to be a natural process, the presence of screens, artificial light, and various reasons to stay awake at night make it increasingly difficult to get enough rest. Furthermore, some factors that affect our sleep are beyond our control and remain hidden. Prioritizing and practicing good sleep habits require effort, but the rewards are more valuable than one might initially think without examining the science. In this modern age, sleep is the underdog that we need to recognize and prioritize to improve our overall well-being. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the power of sleep and take steps to get the necessary rest our bodies need.
Consequences of Poor Sleep
Depression: How Poor Sleep Can Affect Your Mental Health
Unsatisfactory sleep has the strongest correlation with depression, as demonstrated by this study. Of the individuals with depression, 90% reported dissatisfaction with their sleep length or quality. Given that our mood largely influences our daily actions, it is crucial to prioritize the importance of sleep.
Carelessness: The Surprising Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Every year, the daylight-saving time shift provides a global opportunity to observe how a mere one hour of sleep deprivation can impact our bodies. When we lose an hour of sleep during this event, we experience a noticeable increase in negative effects such as workplace injuries., which are likely due to reduced reaction speed and poor motor coordination.
Immune System Suppression: How Lack of Sleep Weakens Your Body’s Defenses
Fairly intuitively, there is a strong connection between the immune system and sleep. Anyone who has had a cold or the flu knows that they feel lethargic and sleep, and all you want to do is lay down and rest. Certain pro-inflammatory cytokines, including tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) are directly correlated with increased sleep. Missing even a few vital hours of sleep certainly has to have an impact on your immunity. It’s essential to recognize the power of sleep for our immune system’s proper functioning and take the necessary steps to ensure we get enough rest. Chronic insufficient sleep can weaken our immunity, leaving us vulnerable to illnesses and diseases.
Drink Driving: The Dangerous Link Between Sleep and Alcohol
Studies indicates that driving after being awake for a long time (17-19 hours) results in reaction speeds similar to those of intoxicated drivers. In a specific test, reaction speed can be reduced by up to 50%, and that extra half a second it takes to notice someone walking in front of your vehicle can make all the difference. Although many people recognize the dangers of drunk driving, driving while tired can be just as hazardous. Therefore, it is vital not to neglect your sleep.
Sleeping Pills: The Potential Risks of Using Medication for Sleep
Many believe just taking sleeping pills and knocking yourself unconscious is the same as getting a long natural night’s sleep, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. During sleep, we have multiple phases of brainwaves we cycle though, of note, the stage where REM occurs. REM – rapid eye movements, is associated with the most restorative period of sleep we go through, but simple medicating and passing out doesn’t induce the same effect as natural sleep. This study showed a 50% increased mortality for those who used sleeping pills. The same study also showed that those who slept less than 4 hours a night for extended periods had over twice the mortality rate of those who slept 7 – 8 hours a night.
Putting Sleep into Action
Circadian Rhythm: How to Align Your Sleep Schedule with Your Body’s Natural Clock
One of the most critical factors to improve the quality of your sleep is enhancing your circadian rhythm – and that’s where the power of sleep comes into play. Your circadian rhythm serves as the master rhythm of your body, impacting many other rhythmic functions, such as your cortisol cycles, melatonin secretion, and even digestion. Consistent hunger at the same time every day serves as simple proof of this. The sleep-wake cycle is the primary function of the circadian rhythm. By consistently sleeping and waking at the same time every day, you can strengthen this cycle. Establishing a habit of maintaining a regular sleep schedule every day is the easiest and most effective way to improve sleep quality since it will become second nature to you.
Caffeine and Alcohol: Navigating the Effects of These Substances on Your Sleep
I’m talking specifically about caffeine and alcohol because they’re the most common drugs that affect your sleep, but all drugs will affect your sleep in some way, including prescription medications. You can reduce the damage done to your sleep quality by avoiding them before bed, a cup of coffee in the morning, and the occasional beer or glass of wine probably won’t cause most people an issue, but drinking alcohol to pass out every night and drinking 5 espresso shots a day is going to reduce your sleep quality a great deal.
Light: Optimizing Your Environment for Restful Sleep
We talked a little about your circadian rhythm, and light regulates primarily the circadian rhythm, and the variance of wavelengths throughout the day. In the morning, certain wavelengths tell our circadian rhythm that it’s time for us to wake up, so we get a nice cortisol rush to give us energy and help us take on the day. Similarly, at night, the wavelengths influence our body to secrete sleepy chemicals like melatonin, that help us sleep.
The overuse of artificial light is the first issue to address here. If you keep all your lights on and stare at screens after sunset, your pineal gland, responsible for producing melatonin, will struggle to do so, preventing you from feeling tired. To avoid this, limit your exposure to artificial light, especially before bed. You can read a book by candlelight, listen to an audiobook, or spend time with someone in the dark. Using blackout curtains or a sleeping mask can also help, particularly if you have street lights outside or prefer not to wake up too early.
Electromagnetic Fields (EMF): Understanding and Minimizing Their Impact on Your Sleep
As if visible light wavelengths weren’t hard enough to avoid, there are other wavelengths that we can’t physically see but have the same effect on melatonin and other sleepy chemicals in our brain. These non-native EMFs like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and mobile/cell phones all use frequency that your body can’t differentiate from artificial lights, and will have the same effect. This is harder to avoid because it’s less obvious, you can’t see it, but you can still minimize its effects.
Firstly avoid wireless when possible, and if that isn’t possible, at least make sure it’s turned off at night and if you can’t do that, make sure it’s as far away from your bed a possible. Distance really makes the difference with electromagnetic radiation. Don’t have a wireless phone charger charging your phone next to your head when you’re trying to sleep. Absolute disaster.
Sleep Mastery: Treating Sleep as a Skill to be Learned and Perfected
The power of sleep goes beyond just a means to end your day, as it is a practice that should be incorporated into your daily routine. During sleep, your body regenerates and integrates all that has occurred throughout the day. By implementing healthy lifestyle changes, you can maximize the benefits of sleep. So remember to prioritize and value the power of sleep in your daily life. Have a good night! Tuck in warm.
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