General Practice Neurology Wellbeing & Fitness

Are you Sleeping Enough? How Insomnia can Affect your Overall Health

Written by Dr Ralph Rodgers for Doctify

Sleep is just as important to your health and wellbeing as good nutrition, exercise, and stress management.

It’s far too easy to stay awake at night watching TV or surfing the web. You could be doing some last minute work or just getting some ‘me’ time after the kids go to bed. However, getting enough sleep will not only refresh you for the oncoming day, it also has immediate and long-term beneficial effects on your physical, emotional, and mental health. Tackling insomnia can affect the quality and longevity of your life and here to tell us why is Sport & Exercise Medicine Specialist, Dr Ralph Rogers.

How does sleep help repair your body?

While you’re awake and active during the day, your body goes through lots of wear and tear. Sleep is your body’s opportunity to repair any damage and keep you at your best. While you sleep, your body produces extra protein molecules that boost your immune system. This helps you fight infection and keeps you healthy at a cellular level.

Insomnia can also lead to higher blood pressure and irregular heartbeats. This is due to this additional stress and less repair time. We already know the problematic effects of stress on your body; proper rest forces your body to relax and release tensions from the day.

Does your weight have any effect on insomnia?

People who have chronic sleep deprivation have been shown to have an irregular metabolism. This causes changes in how the body stores energy (glucose) and impacts the production of hormones (such as  ghrelin) that regulates your appetite when you’re awake. This can increase your appetite and lead to erratic and unhealthy eating and cravings. Unfortunately, this tends to be cravings for food high in immediate energy and calories to keep you awake, such as sugars, carbohydrates and fat.

This change in metabolism and energy storage can also effect how insulin works on your cells to promote energy production, which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. Studies have indicated that those who regularly sleep less than five hours per night have increased risk of developing diabetes.

How does lack of sleep affect memory?

Sleep helps the brain to learn new information better the following day and retain it. A study done on professional violinists showed that the top performers regularly got 8-9 hours of sleep each night as part of their training regime, two more than the average Brit or American. It also improves concentration, which is crucial when considering the impact of sleep deprivation and accidents at work or on the road.

And how does it affect our mood?

It’s easy to tell if someone has had a restless night judging by his or her cranky attitude the next day. Often, a rough night will cause impatience, irritability, and ‘fogginess.’ Over time, chronic lack of sleep can lead to long-term mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Is beauty sleep a real thing?

Though a popular belief, there may be some truth to getting your ‘beauty sleep.’ A recent study in Sweden tested the attractiveness of twenty-three people in a controlled test in accordance with the amount of sleep they were allowed to have.  Overwhelmingly, the photos of the individuals when they were better rested were deemed to be more attractive.  Ample sleep can decrease the appearance of wrinkles, facial puffiness, and reduce blotchiness.  Socially, people may also seem to be healthier when they appear to be less stressed and better rested.



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