Many of us don’t realize the pressure we put on ourselves and the ones we care about. In middle school, some parents put their children on amphetamine salts, such as Adderall, so they can get them into honors courses in high school. In high school, we juggled extracurricular activities and academia so we could get into college. In college, many have to work and pull all-nighters in order to boost our G.P.A. so we could get a decent job. At work, we “willingly” agree to overtime so we could get a promotion. We are rushing through life, replacing healthy essentials with processed foods, prescription medications, caffeine, and anything else that will bring us from point A to point B faster than the next person. Where does it end? Unfortunately, it ends with a large percentage of the population dealing with serious health complications due to sleep deprivation.
Chronic sleep loss can damage our overall well-being by negatively impacting the brain. When we sleep, we are giving our brain the opportunity to repair itself, which is the key to proper learning and memory retention. When the average person begins to lose an excessive amount of sleep, it can weaken problem solving skills, creativity, and the ability to remain focused. Ultimately, those who are sleep deficient may have mood swings, problems with impulse and anger, as well as, depression and motivational issues. Ironically, many students think it is more efficient to cram information into our heads in place of getting a good night of sleep.
It only makes sense that when your doctor tells you to get plenty of rest when you are ill, to at least get an average amount to stay well, right? Your immune system also relies on sleep in order for it to function properly. We are taking away our ability to combat disease by suppressing the actions of our killer T-cells when we lose too much sleep. Recent studies have also found that maintaining a healthy sleep schedule may also fight cancer.
Chronic sleep deprivation negatively modifies our metabolism. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.” Ultimately, it has been found that there is an increased risk with becoming obese with each hour of sleep lost per night, on average.
Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, irregular heartbeat, imbalanced stress hormones, and other cardiovascular diseases. According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the University of Chicago claim that, “too little sleep can promote calcium buildup in the heart arteries, leading to the plaques that can then break apart and cause heart attacks and strokes.” In addition, our blood pressure decreases when we sleep; therefore, we are putting our bodies at risk of incessant high blood pressure when we force ourselves to stay awake.
Where to Begin?
While it is difficult to completely change bad sleep habits over-night, we can at least start by making simple lifestyle changes.
Reduce Caffeine Intake.
Most of us have a cup of coffee before work every morning, some of us have two, maybe even three by the end of the day. No big deal, right? Well, what about the additional cup of tea, chocolate bar, soda, or occasional energy drink? All of these products contain caffeine, which as all know, is a stimulant. While mainstream media encourages you to buy the latest energy drink, in addition to promoting alleged health benefits from drinking coffee, we tend to lose site of the term “in moderation.” A study conducted in 2002 at Duke University found that, “The effects of coffee drinking are long-lasting and exaggerate the stress response both in terms of the body’s physiological response in blood pressure elevations and stress hormone levels.” Lack of sleep is already dabbling with your hormones and blood pressure; submitting yourself to excessive amounts of caffeine can add to those health issues while taking a toll on your physical appearance and increasing anxiety levels.
Keep your Diet in Check
When we are drained from constantly rushing and working, we sometimes forget to eat properly. We end up reducing ourselves to processed meat, lack of vegetables, and items on the “healthy” menu at fast food chains. Start by reserving Sunday nights for family and friends; take the time to make a balanced home cooked meal.
Chronic sleep loss can damage our overall health-wellness by negatively impacting our weight, cardiovascular health, neurological functioning, and immune system. Most importantly, lack of restful sleep results in increased levels of inflammation, which is the underlying cause of many of our current chronic illnesses. Sleep loss education, healthy role models, and proper medical information could change the way the next generation of students and professionals maintain a healthy balance between well-being and the pressure to succeed. Relax every once in a while – Hit the snooze button.
“Caffeine’s Effects Are Long-Lasting and Compound Stress.” DukeHealth.org. Duke Medicine News and Communications, n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/news/5687>.
“Importance of Sleep : Six Reasons Not to Scrimp on Sleep.” Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Publications, Jan. 2006. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health>.
Park, Alice. “Lack of Sleep Linked to Heart Problems.” Health & Family. Time, 23 Dec. 2008. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1868406,00.html>.
“Why Is Sleep Important?” NHLBI, NIH. U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services, 22 Feb. 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why.html>.
Posted By: Axiom Health Care Marketing