Another topic which many people forget or even don’t realise is so important in maximising a healthy lifestyle… everyone’s favourite…SLEEP! 

white bed comforter
Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

First of all, it is recommended to us that 18-64 year olds get between 7-9 hours sleep, no more or no less… Here’s why it’s so important!

Did you know we sleep on average a whole THIRD of our lives? So you’d think MAYBE since a lot of our time is sleeping we’d want to prioritise it? Do you? I definitely don’t but after writing this blog I will be making more of an effort! It is not just our busy lifestyle which is affecting under or over-sleeping. but our Limited activity levels, our poor eating choices and the stress we are under are affecting it too. 

One reason for getting the correct amount of sleep per night… One of which we are all scared: WEIGHT. Short sleep durations (less than the recommended 7 hours) is seen to be one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. In fact, those getting only ONE hour less than the recommended were looking to be 23% more likely to be overweight. This is because sleep deprivation causes increased levels of cortisol (hormones) which make us want to eat more! 

Furthermore, under-sleeping can also cause heart problems, increased blood pressure, decreased sex drive, decreased motivation, loss of concentration, mood changes and even a weakened immune system. Some studies have shown that sleep deprivation performance is similar to being drunk. After 17 to 19 hours without sleep, performance was equivalent or worse than that of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05 percent… So maybe staying up all night to do that essay is NOT the best idea.

However, did you know that OVER-sleeping is just as bad? Again, obesity is more likely if you are over-sleeping: According to WebMD, a recent study showed that people who slept for nine or 10 hours every night were 21% more likely to become obese over a six-year period than were people who slept between seven and eight hours… 

Headaches are also far more likely for some. According to WebMD, it is believed this is due to the effect over-sleeping has on certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin. 

Another study done by the Nurses’ Health Study, which involved nearly 72,000 women, carried out a careful analysis of the data which showed that women who slept nine to 11 hours per night were 38% more likely to have coronary heart disease than women who slept eight hours. Over-sleeping may also cause back pain, increased depression and even increased chances of diabetes!

Okay… I know what you’re thinking…WTF. (That’s how I felt when I became aware of this) HOWEVER, do not fear! If you have a couple nights of under-sleeping or over-sleeping, so what! You won’t wake up with heart disease. It’s over a longer period of time of bad sleeping habits that these problems arise, but CHANGE your HABITS now and prevent these awful consequences happening… 

Some ways to improve your sleep hygiene, as Professor Garry Egger describes:

  • Adopt some kind of routine
  • RELAX and DETACH: Particularly in the hour before you sleep, switch off the phones/TVs etc and chill. Detach from the outside world. Maybe a bath, reading or some calming music?
  • 2 S’s: SEX and SLEEP: These are the only things allowed in the bedroom! Leave work, food, laptops, small screens etc outside.
  • Ditch the caffeine, (roughly 8 hours before sleeping) the alcohol and avoid eating several hours before bedtime
  • Be active throughout the day and be out-of-doors for a dose of daylight.
  • Avoid long naps during the day (over 30 mins)
  • Finally, develop a positive mentality about sleep! I am aware this is hard, and when we are in bed at night we often go over worries and anxieties in our heads. However controlling these thoughts can be hugely advantageous. There are so many apps that can help.

I most definitely do not prioritise my sleep. However, having researched for this blog it is certainly something that I will try to improve on… Will you? Let know what you think in the comments and hmu with any Qs!

Martha xxx









Lifestyle Medicine: Lifestyle, the Environment and Preventive Medicine in Health and Disease

Edited by: Garry Egger, Andrew Binns, Stephan Rossner and Michael Sagner.

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