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In the province of Québec, most adolescents and adults lack sleep. Their schedules are extremely hectic—and nights tend to be short. Their sleep is also affected by hyperstimulation throughout the day or by thoughts racing in their heads at night. Even if people immediately feel the effects of a lack of sleep, the problem continues to escalate in our society. In today’s world, people’s need to perform is driving them to stay up later. Let’s discover the main effects of a lack of sleep.
Overall effects on the metabolism
The quality of your sleep directly impacts your metabolism. The effects on your energy levels, concentration and alertness are immediate. Over the long term, not getting enough sleep can cause both a physical and mental exhaustion. As more and more people say that they don’t sleep enough, we noticing a marked increase in fatigue and depression. Although sleep habits are one of the first things to verify, but they are often overlooked. Getting a good night’s sleep or taking a nap gives people an instant jolt of well-being because they are recognizing their bodies need for rest. However, when exhaustion settles in, people realize that sleeping is not enough. They wake up tired, even though they slept 7, 8 and sometimes 10 hours. Their homeostasis is broken. Furthermore, the adrenal glands, which kick in to manage stress using hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, are fatigued. Energy and endurance levels drop. It can be a cause of why chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity, develop. The immune system is particularly affected; it become more susceptible to viruses and infections when the quality of the sleep in inversely proportional to the increasing workload, anxiety or stress.
Hormone imbalance and neurotransmitters
“Some physiological functions that are essential to life can only be produced when people sleep. This is the case for the secretion of many hormones, including the growth hormone, which is produced at the beginning of the night when people are in a deep sleep,” said Dr. Mayer, Director of the Sleep Clinic at the Hôtel-Dieu du CHUM. In children, this hormone is associated with growth. In adults, the hormone helps to develop muscle mass and strength. Apart from the growth hormone, the secretion of neurotransmitters is also negatively affected by a lack of sleep. Normally, they play an instrumental role in keeping a good balance between the body and the mind, as we discovered in our recent blog post, Neurotransmitters: Our body’s precious messengers. People’s moods are particularly affected by having little sleep. They tend to be more impatient and irritable. Their relationships with others are naturally impacted due to what they say, their behaviour or absent-mindedness. They are also inattentive and uninvolved in their own and loved ones’ lives.
The munchies and premature skin aging
The fatigue caused by a lack of sleep leads to sugar cravings and negative effects on blood glucose levels. For example, the secretion of leptin, a hormone that regulates energy balance by inhibiting hunger, decreases when people don’t get enough sleep. Again, people become irritable, impatient and lose their concentration. This type of hormonal imbalance results in frustration, the munchies and weight gain. “While the number of obese people has nearly doubled, from 10% to 25%, we have also noticed that people have, on average, reduced the number of hours they sleep by 30%, which over two and a half hours. Now that is a perfect correlation that is not a statistical coincidence,” explained Dr. Mayer. Moreover, although wrinkles are generally normal and healthy, a lack of sleep actually accelerates the aging process. People’s skin is more radiant after a good night’s sleep, which means that the body is rejuvenated, and cells have been optimally repaired overnight.
Sleep is vital for people’s health and well-being. Even if researchers, healthcare professionals, parents, teachers and citizens know that sleep is crucial, society as a whole would greatly benefit from understanding the devastating effects of a lack of sleep on people’s health. Drinking lots of water, eating healthy and getting regular exercise are goals that many people set for themselves and their loved ones. For several years now, people are also more aware of the benefits of deep breathing and meditation. It is now time for everyone to awaken to the importance of sleeping and set aside enough time to sleep. Sleep has wonderful restorative and rejuvenating powers—and getting enough rest does wonders to the body and mind.
Imane’s tips for a deep and regenerative sleep
- Enjoy daily exercise (30 minutes or more).
- Have a light supper and an evening walk.
- Avoid stimulants, especially after noon (coffee, tea, etc.).
- Limit excess alcohol consumption (wine, beer, etc.).
- Magnesium bisglycinate supplements are good sleep aids.
- Fig buds (Ficus Carica) and linden (Tilia Montana) are also gentle sleep aids.
- Start a routine to unwind in the evening (bath, self-massage, reading, music, writing).
- Breathing and relaxation exercises are excellent means to relax and foster sleep.
- Drink a soothing linden, lemon balm or verbena tea.
- If you suffer from chronic insomnia, consult a healthcare professional.
PhD in Food Science and Naturopath
Author and Speaker