The Effects of Sleep Quality and Health

Alex Badlissi

Oftentimes when working with a new client, they will have a preconceived notion of what I will ask. They usually bring up their goals, prior injuries, training history, nutrition, workout style preferences, etc.

One area that some people tend to overlook is their sleep. I try my best to emphasize to my clients just how important it is to consistently get a good night’s sleep.
According to a number of reliable studies, consistently getting a good night’s sleep is directly correlated with better overall health and a higher quality of life. Thirty-five percent of all U.S. adults experience short sleep durations or difficulty sleeping. Short sleep durations are categorized as getting less than 7 hours a night. This number is relevant because studies have shown that individuals who suffer from chronic lack of sleep (less than 7 hours), are more likely to suffer from a variety of symptoms.

Anyone who’s had a bad night of sleep knows what it feels like the next day – lack of energy, memory loss, trouble with thinking and concentrating, etc. These are usually the first things that come to mind. (Unless I’ve had a bad night’s sleep, then nothing comes to mind — see above.) Usually, these symptoms only last until you get to bed the next night and manage to get adequate sleep. The real issues start to occur when sleep deprivation becomes habitual.

Chronic sleep deprivation can cause much more than just being grumpy and tired during the day. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep increases your risk in these areas:

Arthritis 28.8%
Depression 22.9%
Asthma 16.5%
COPD 8.6%
Diabetes 11.1%
Heart attack 4.8%
Coronary heart disease 4.7%
Stroke 3.6%
Chronic kidney disease 3.3%
Cancer 10.2%

Needless to say, missing out on a good night’s sleep, consistently, is no joke! In 1942 Gallup, Inc. released results from a poll which found that only 11 percent of Americans were getting six hours or less of sleep per night. By 2013 that number rose to 40 percent. Factors such as increased work demand, nutrition imbalances and the obesity epidemic, as well as social culture, have shifted our society’s view on sleep as a priority.

One of the most important aspects to consider when we think of sleep and the relationship it has to health and wellness, is the correlation between obesity and sleep. Clinical studies of sleep restricted adults showed an overall increase in general feelings of hunger and an increase of caloric intake. Further, studies have shown that when you are tired, you are more likely to opt for calorically dense foods. A study from an article published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2008 found that people who had sleeping issues were less likely to lose weight than their peers.

Many health conscious people focus on their mental and physical health, but if quality sleep is missing from that equation, it can and will have a negative impact on quality of life over time. Here are some tips to follow to improve sleep quality and length:

Set up a sleep schedule. If you have trouble doing this on your own, there are numerous mobile apps available, many of them free, to help with creating and abiding by a sleep schedule. Consistency with your sleep and wake schedule can be very helpful.

Turn off your electronics! The longer time between bedtime and your TV, computer, tablet, or phone shut-off for the night, the better quality sleep you will have. Exposure to bright lights such as those from these types of screens should be limited to take place during the daylight hours, as much as possible.

Unable to shut off your screens prior to bedtime? Try blue-light blocking glasses.
If the sunrise or light pollution bother your ability to sleep soundly, try installing blackout curtains.
Try to avoid consuming caffeine late in the day.
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine can promote the tired feeling you may be lacking at bedtime.

Rule out a sleep disorder–if you have tried many of these tips already and are still struggling, it may be time to see a specialist!

And that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed this tidbit on the importance of sleep. And just think, if you’re having trouble sleeping tonight, just read this a few times and you’ll be counting sheep in no time.

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