Sleep | Kaleidoscope Wellbeing
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Sleep

Our decreasing sleep

In order to have good health, we need three things:

  • Good nutrition
  • Regular exercise
  • Good quality sleep

Each of these is equally important! But many people are simply unaware of the importance of sleep, and it is often the first thing to suffer when we are busy, as we exchange our sleep hours for wake hours.

40 years ago, our grandparents slept on average 8.5 hours every night. Now, one in three people average just over six hours of sleep per weeknight. Within a very short period of time, we have decreased our sleep time by an average of 2.4 hours per day – by about one quarter of what it was 40 years ago – yet our biological requirements remain the same. 1

In addition to people choosing or having to sleep less due to time restrictions, many people suffer from insomnia – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. And of those that can sleep, many find that their sleep isn’t refreshing, and they are tired when they wake up. Regardless of the circumstances, lack of sleep is a serious issue.

What happens when you are sleep-deprived?

Sleep is fundamental to survival. Most people are unaware of the serious consequences of sleep-deprivation.

  • Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) (the amount of energy you use for basic bodily processes) decreases – so while awake you need to substantially increase your physical activity and/or decrease your food intake just to remain at the same weight.
  • The hormones that control your appetite are affected. Leptin, which tells us when we are full, decreases, and ghrelin, which tells us when we are hungry, increases.
  • You crave calorie-dense foods and consume more calories.
  • Your risk of weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes increases significantly. Research has shown that lack of sleep causes weight gain.
  • Autophagy, the critical process of breaking down, recycling, repairing and rebuilding new cell parts which primarily occurs during sleep, decreases, increasing the risk of disease.
  • Production of growth hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone, both very important for maintaining healthy metabolism, is decreased. There is a domino effect on other hormones, leading to your hormonal balance being severely affected.
  • Your ability to metabolise glucose decreases, causing increased blood sugar and over time, insulin resistance.
  • Sleep restriction creates a state of biological stress, causing cortisol (the stress hormone) levels to increase, which in turn increases blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
  • Your natural killer cell activity is reduced by as much as 50%, which decreases your immunity.
  • Levels of inflammation increase.
  • Your performance and motivation are decreased.
  • You have increased mental errors and flawed judgements, decreased memory and slower thought processes.
  • You have increased mood swings and irritability. 1

The causes of sleep problems

There are many potential causes of insomnia and unrefreshing sleep, from dysregulated circadian rhythm, nutrient deficiencies, dysregulated blood sugar, eating too late, exposure to blue light at night and poor sleep habits to lack of exercise, stress, anxiety, depression, sleep apnoea, perimenopause, medications, caffeine and alcohol. Often, sleep problems are multifactorial in origin.1

Improving your sleep

By analysing your diet and lifestyle, and ordering functional tests if necessary, I can help you to uncover what the drivers behind your sleep issues may be. With diet, lifestyle and nutrients, we can work to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. I’ll develop a tailored treatment plan for you with clear, achievable goals and simple, manageable steps to improve your health.

References

  1. Harrington, C. (2012). The Sleep Diet. Sydney, Australia.: Pan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited.