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Pay Your Sleep Debt

Chronic lack of sleep is life threatening. 

A recent study published in Diabetes Care, an American Diabetes Association journal, demonstrates that disturbed or reduced sleep is associated with glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and a higher risk of developing Type II Diabetes. Other studies have found links between shorter cycles of sleep and an increased risk of stroke.

In contrast, adequate rest yields increased productivity, improved immunity and a better mood.

Most experts agree that the average adult needs seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, yet our hectic lifestyle choices have left us with little time for rest. Are you getting all the shuteye you need? Here are a few signs that you’re skimping on sleep: 

You Snack on Unhealthy Foods

Research published in The American Journal of Human Biology reveals how inadequate sleep can impact appetite regulation and blood sugar levels: short sleep duration is associated with a higher production of ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating hormone in your body. This means that if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, you are more likely to throw your regular diet out the window and increase your caloric intake. Habitually consuming calorie-rich foods—such as sugary drinks and sweets—without adequate energy expenditure leads to weight gain. Therefore, sleep deprivation has also been linked to obesity.

You Catch Colds More Easily

While asleep, the immune system releases proteins called, cytokines, which help fight infection, so sufficient sleep translates into a stronger immunity. A Carnegie Mellon study found that consistent adequate sleep of eight hours per night reduces your likelihood of developing a cold by 30%. 

Depending on how long you have been depriving yourself, it can take several days or even weeks to repay your sleep debt. Below are some ways to defog your mind and get more sleep:

Power Naps

Research shows that twenty- to 30-minute naps can help ward off fatigue. It is best to schedule a power nap post-lunch, when your energy levels plunge. Keep it less than 30 minutes long to ensure that you don’t enter the deep sleep cycle that is difficult to wake up from and will ultimately leave you feeling groggier than before.

Limit Your Cuppa

The cup of coffee that keeps you awake during the day may  keep you up at night, too. Caffeine can stay in your system for as long as eight hours, so if you’re aiming to hit the pillow by 10pm, count backwards and stay away from caffeinated beverages after lunchtime.

Lights Out

All light is interpreted as daylight by your brain and the glow from your gadgets may delay the release of sleep-promoting hormones. This interferes with your ability to fall asleep easily and also affects the duration of your sleep. Keep your laptop, mobile phone and other gadgets either switched off or in another part of the house, and aim to keep your bedroom dark and quiet.

Don’t Sleep Late

While it is important for you to repay your sleep debt, avoid the habit of sleeping in late on weekends. A regular sleep-wake schedule will help you fall asleep more easily when your head hits the pillow each night.

 

-- Claire Charters. Claire is the editor and founder of the Zenspiration Magazine. Her love for the simple luxuries of life is expressed through her lifestyle blog, Zenspiration, where she covers everything from health, travel, fashion and beauty to finding inspiration in everyday moments. Claire lives in Australia and maintains a website at Claire Charters.

photo credits: ieve holthausen, beetle wings, nishe