Sleep an energy driver you don't want to neglect

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My two children were hopeless sleepers when they were small, actually my second child didn't get into a good sleep pattern until he was about 6! So I know first hand the feeling of sleep deprivation and it is not pleasant - exhausted, low mood and not to mention, you don't look too hot either! But long term sleep deprivation is more serious than that, it causes hormone imbalance, affects your immune system and dulls your brain. Chronic sleep deprivation causes hormone imbalances in the body and affects metabolic processes. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes alternations in glucose tolerances, which can greatly increase your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Sleep deprivation has also been shown to increase the risk of obesity as impaired glucose tolerance causes you to feel tired and hungry more often and more likely to reach for sugary comfort foods (all that excess glucose is then stored as fat). Poor quality sleep over a long period of time has been shown to lower a hormone called leptin, which is an appetite-suppressing hormone and increase ghrelin that stimulates hunger - neither good for weight management.

So lack of sleep impairs your glucose tolerance, makes you feel hungrier and causes you to eat more comfort foods … but there’s more … chronic sleep deprivation also causes an elevation in the hormone cortisol, which further increases your risk of diabetes and obesity and affects the brain by negatively impacting attention, alertness, reaction time, memory and reasoning skills.

Just in case you aren’t convinced that “more sleep” should be included in your list of “must dos”, chronic sleep deprivation directly affects your immune system by increasing an inflammatory marker used by medical professionals to predict the risk of heart disease and diagnose general inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body impedes the immune system’s function and increases your risk of infection, chronic disease and cancers.

With a recent Irish sleep study (Amarach, 2010) finding one third of adults feeling in some way sleep deprived and even more startling statistics from Irish medical card holders showing more than a million sleeping tablets prescribed in 2011, there is no doubt we could do with some help when it comes to sleep!

So how do you get the best night’s sleep possible?

  1. Make night and day different - take plenty of fresh air and daylight when awake and darkness at night.
  2. Avoid coffee for four to six hours before sleep and alcohol three hours before bedtime.
  3. Sleep in a cool dark rom with no electronic devices (TV, phone, laptop etc.) Keep the bedroom for sleep and other non-virtual nighttime activity only.
  4. Avoid work or discussion of emotional issues before bed. Try writing them down and putting them aside before sleep
  5. Don’t lie in bed awake. Get up, read a book and then go back to bed when you’re sleepy
  6. Go to bed when you are truly tired
  7. Keep a routine – go to bed and wake up every day, yes even at weekends
  8. Eat light in the evenings
  9. Watch fluids at night. Drink enough so you won’t wake dehydrated but not too much that you have to pee.
  10. Exercise – but make sure it is at least two hours before bed.