Sleep is a necessary part of life and vitally important to your health. Hands up anyone who slept for eight hours straight last night! No? Sadly, lack of sleep has become one of modern life’s constant complaints. And, say the scientists, insomnia lies at the heart of many common ailments too, from weight gain to anxiety and wobbly hormones. Let’s talk about the importance of getting your zzzzzs.
That’s me in the corner (apologies to R.E.M.), slack-eyed, frequently yawning, snappy with my colleagues, and productivity pretty much reduced to zero. How long did I sleep last night? Four hours, from 11pm to 3am, when I started to solve problems at work, and in the world… What a waste of time.
According to the South African Society of Sleep Medicine, insomnia affects about 30–40% of adults in this country within any given year. In the US, a 2016 study revealed that 1.2 million working days a year were lost due to sleep deprivation among its working population.
Sleep and your health
When it comes to general health, a shortage of sleep affects every aspect of our biology. Insomnia makes us ratty, irrational and impatient. However, after a full night’s sleep – that’s seven to eight hours daily for adults – we’re mentally more alert and energetic. Our mood is more upbeat, and our reaction times are quicker.
‘Sleep has a correlation to hypertension and diabetes as well as obesity and heart disease,’ says Dr Karine Scheuermaier, head of the Sleep Laboratory at the Witwatersrand School of Physiology. A lack of sleep disturbs hormone function, making you want to eat more ‘to keep up your strength’.
Sleep helps your brain process the events of the day, helping you to deal with them better. Sleep also helps strengthen long-term memories in the immune system – getting sufficient sleep helps your immune system recognise previous infections and react accordingly. And that’s a mind-blowing concept!
Chase those sacred eight hours
The trouble is that, after years of burning the candle at both ends, it’s a struggle to find the deep, restorative rest our bodies long for. If you’re a true ‘short sleeper’, explains Dr Scheuermaier, ‘you probably spend many hours sleeping at the weekend.’ Sleep should be prioritised, like exercise and servicing your car…
There’s loads of advice out there that’ll help you encourage healthy sleep patterns. Soft lighting, a comfortable bed, a bedroom that’s warm (but not too warm), your cellphone and computer switched off, concerns and to-do list jotted down on paper, a warm bath, hot milky drink and, to tip the balance, a natural herbal calmative. Do the research, and make sleep a priority.
What’s Your Take Away?
How much sleep do you personally need to function best with? Are you struggling with your sleep? Have you found anything in particular to help your personal situation?? We’d love to know your experience – it’ll be great of you share with us on Facebook.
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.
- 11 Wellness trends to watch out for in 2018: Sleep Optimization. Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/wellness-trends-2018
- Cape Talk 702. Head of Witwatersrand’s Sleep Lab, Dr Karine Scheuermaier, on how South Africans are sleep-deprived, with Stephen Grootes.
- South African Society of Sleep Medicine
- Original photo by Free-Photos / Pixabay.com; adapted with overlay, text and logo 2018.