Why you need those Z's | June 7, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

- June 7, 2013

Why you need those Z's

Lack of sleep caused Three Mile Island and other accidents

Lack of sleep is not a joke.

Not getting enough sleep starves your body of its natural ability to reinvigorate itself. If you didn't get a lot of sleep the night before, chances are that you're going to be cranky and groggy throughout the day. And unfortunately, sleep can affect more than just your mood. Lack of sleep can affect your sex life, memory retention, health, looks and especially your ability to lose weight.

Lack of sleep, lack of focus

Lack of sleep causes a lack of focus. Forget about will power. If you're sleep-deprived, your body will not be able to focus.

Lack of sleep was the cause behind these major accidents: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island; the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill; and the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl.

Lack of sleep doesn't just cause major accidents around the world. It's a big public safety concern because drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S. This problem appears greatest among people under 25.

Lack of sleep, lack of brain function

Lack of sleep impairs your cognitive functions as well. It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem solving. This makes it hard to be present in normal everyday activities like going to work, school or hanging out with friends and family.

Also, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in "solidifying" memories within the mind. If you don't get enough sleep, that's not going to happen. So when you feel sleep deprived, it will be harder to remember what you did during the day.

Lack of sleep, lack of health

Chronic lack of sleep can put you at risk for these health concerns:

* Heart disease

* Heart attack

* Heart failure

* Irregular heartbeat

* High blood pressure

* Stroke

* Diabetes

According to some estimates, about 90% of people with insomnia also have another corresponding health condition, like depression.

Lack of sleep is depressing

Over time, lack of sleep can contribute to symptoms of depression.

The most common sleep disorder -- insomnia -- has the strongest link to depression, which isn't surprising because it's often one of the first symptoms of depression. In fact, in a 2007 study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without insomnia.

Insomnia and depression feed off each other. Depression can keep you up at night and sleep loss will often aggravate the symptoms of depression, creating a vicious cycle.

Lack of sleep, old skin

When you don't get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress and a low level of blood glucose within the body. When released in excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic so you don't wake up the next morning with sallow skin and puffy eyes or dreaded dark circles under the eyes.

Lack of sleep, lack of memory

In 2009, American and French researchers determined that brain events called "sharp wave ripples" were responsible for consolidating memory. The ripples also transferred learned information from one area of the brain to another, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep. If you're not getting enough sleep then you're missing out on long-term memory retention.

Lack of sleep, increase in weight

Lack of sleep is related to an increase in hunger and appetite and possibly to obesity. Lack of sleep not only stimulates your appetite, but it also makes you crave high-fat and high-carb foods. This is problematic if you're trying to lose weight.

According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30% more likely to become obese than those who slept for seven to nine hours.

Lack of sleep, lack of judgment

Lack of sleep can affect our interpretation of events as well. This hurts our ability to make sound judgments because we may not assess situations accurately and act on them wisely. Also, sleep deprived people often misjudge the effects of lack of sleep. So if you're not sleeping enough, pay close attention to the next section so you can take advantage of those Z's.

How you can get more sleep

In today's fast paced society, getting enough sleep seems like a dream; but, it doesn't have to be. Below are tips on how to get more sleep.

* Keep track of your time

Stop puttering around. We all need down time, but we don't need endless hours of it. If it's 1 a.m. and you're still relaxing from that stressful day at work, it may be a good idea to take a look at your priorities.

* No more late night T.V.

Television is designed to keep you up at night so don't feel bad if you often find yourself glued to the T.V. late at night. However, if your favorite show is on past your bed time, record it and enjoy it the next day after you get home from work. It will be much more enjoyable to watch it when you're more alert after a productive day.

* In fact, turn everything off

Make a rule to turn off your electronic devices at the same time every night. Those calls can wait until morning and those Facebook notifications will still be there the next day. And checking your email late at night won't give you any peace of mind either.

* Find a routine and stick to it

Try to be in bed seven to eight hours before your alarm goes off and plan your night out accordingly.

* Don't clean before bed time

The house does not need to be cleaned before you go to sleep. It may give you some peace of mind, but in the long run, you're just depriving yourself of that much needed sleep.

* Exercise earlier in the day

Try to work out at least four hours before bed. If you wait any longer, your body temperature will still be too high, keeping you awake. Working out soothes insomnia-fueled stress and eventually lowers your body's built-in thermostat, a necessary step to getting some shut eye.