What Happens When We Don’t Sleep Properly?

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Like food and water, sleep is vital for good health! 

It may not feel like there is much going on when your head hits the pillow, but a series of complex chemical reactions start to occur in our brains almost as we shut our eyes.  Our hormone levels start to adjust so that important repair and processing our bodies and brains need to undertake can get underway.  For example, Seratonin (commonly known as the happiness hormone) levels decrease in lower light levels.  Melatonin (a sleep regulating hormone which tells our bodies when to sleep) levels increase in the dark.

These processes are critical in maintaining optimal mental and physical health.  When we don’t sleep well almost every asset of physical and mental health is impacted.  According to the Mayo Clinic website (article on Insomnia dated 2016 March 2007,) sleep deprivation or insomnia can have various effects on different people including:

  • Mental fatigue:  Sleep is vital to encourage the processing of information learnt throughout the day. Studies show that without sleep learning just doesn't happen.  Mental fatigue slows reaction time, impairs decision making, reduces work effectiveness/performance and causes irritability and mood swings.
  • Compromised immune system: Research shows that immunity can be compromised by up to 50% by a lack of sleep.  Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of illness. Lack of sleep is also associated with increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Cardiovascular disease:  Sleep gives your heart a chance to relax in a state of low stress, because in the sleep state the part of your nervous system that makes stress hormones is suppressed. Poor/too little sleep can therefore increases your risk of heart disease.
  • Weight control: Metabolism is disrupted by exhaustion.  Production of the hormone Leptin (which tells the body how much energy you have to use), peaks during the night. If you are not sleeping well this can be miscalculated resulting in the storing of fat instead of burning it!
  • Exercise: While you are in your cell repair phase of sleep, 70% of your daily Growth Hormone gets is released.  This hormone is required to maximise the effects of exercise and complete the biological process of weight loss. Therefore, a lack of sleep can reduce the effectiveness of exercise.
  • Low Libido & motivation: Testosterone levels plummet when you don't get enough sleep - that means a lack of drive. 

 All of these factors can greatly affect our happiness, health and ability to live life to the fullest.