Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Sleep Crisis

I saw a commercial for an eye cream that is supposed to erase dark under-eye circles better than surgery (SURGERY?!? For under-eye circles?!? What is this world coming to?). When one of the actors said, "now I don't look tired all the time!" my first thought was: Well, ARE you tired all the time? I mean, if your dark circles are caused by lack of sleep, isn't the obvious solution just to sleep more? Of course, I know that's not the only cause for dark circles under your eyes, but it's usually a sign that something's wrong with your body. And many people are sleep deprived, without realizing the effects.

The main consequence of sleep deprivation is feeling drowsy during the day, that's kind of obvious. Sleep deprivation can also affect your mood (as any child nearing naptime or bedtime can demonstrate), but besides irritability, sleep deprivation can also cause anxiety, lack of motivation and symptoms of depression. Lack of concentration, restlessness, lack of coordination, poor decisions and increased errors are some of the further effects of sleep deprivation on your daily performance, and sleep deprivation is associated with high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity and diabetes. 

Sleep deprivation affects your weight by interfering with the endocrine gland's production of ghrelin and leptin, the two main hormones involved in eating. Ghrelin is what tells you that you're hungry, leptin is what tells you that you're full. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes an increase in ghrelin, and a decrease in leptin. Consequently, you eat more, and since sleep deprivation also causes a slower metabolism, that's a really bad combination. 

We're in such a hurry to do everything, we don't have time for sleep, so instead we drink coffee, numerous energy drinks such as "Monster" and "Amp," the "5-hour energy" and even caffeinated sodas. Which then stresses out your adrenal glands (and most of those drinks will help add to the accumulating weight also) and doesn't erase any of the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Add to that the consequences of too much caffeine, which can have you too stimulated to finally go to sleep at night, and you can see that's a dangerous situation.

I've been researching sleep deprivation recently because I suspected that I was starting to be sleep-deprived nearly every night. My schedule this year has more morning activities than ever before, and I've been struggling to get to bed as early as I should. 7-8 hours of sleep appears to the average amount of sleep needed by adults (while teens need 9 hours, and babies need 16). I can certainly tell the difference in how I feel when I get at least 7.5 hours, and when I get less. 

Sleep is vitally important to your health, and if you think you don't have time to get a whole 7-8 hours, just remember all the consequences. Think of how much more efficient you'll be at all your tasks if you're fully rested and make time for the sleep you need. I know I will!