What do Benjamin Franklin, Shaquille O’Neal and George Clooney all have in common? If you answered ludicrous talent, you would be correct, but you’ve missed something. All three of these men had real issues with sleep. Clooney even considers himself an insomniac. “I have a tough time getting to sleep,” he once said. “Without question, I wake every night five times.” There will be people reading this who are nodding, with a growing sense of doom in their stomach. They know what it is to lie awake staring at the ceiling wondering, not when, but if they will ever fall asleep.
The fact of the matter is that sleeping troubles are more than just an inconvenience. It has a very real effect on your physical health and your cognition. Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth that sleep is ‘the balm of hurt minds… chief’s nourisher in life’s feast.’ As is often the case, the bard was absolutely right. Adults should be aiming for around seven to nine hours a night to make sure they are avoiding the following conditions.
- Heart Disease: When we fail to catch a sufficient number of Zs, it can cause an increase in blood pressure. This then makes your heart work harder to pump oxygenated blood through your body. Your arteries and heart are under stress. End result? Heart disease. In order to reset sleep cycles, restavit tablets can be a wonderful way to drift off to sleep.
- Immune Function: Sleep is a magic potion for your body. When you’re in the land of nod, your immune system kicks into gear. Studies have shown that those who sleep recover more quickly because the substances which fight infection also cause fatigue. Basically, you need more sleep if your immune system is battling something nasty.
- Obesity: Just when it couldn’t get any worse… There is a correlation between people with poor sleep hygiene and those with an obese body mass index. Doctors believe that sleep causes a hormonal imbalance which begins to affect your appetite and metabolism.
- Diabetes: Again, sleep is unbelievable. Everything positive for your physical health happens at a much greater rate when you’re asleep. Case in point: During sleep, the body processes glucose more effectively than when you’re awake. So if we aren’t getting enough sleep, you can end up developing diabetes.
- Reduced cardiovascular capacity: This one is often under recognised. If we are getting less than seven hours sleep, your cardiovascular capacity is reduced to at least 75%. That means if you are usually able to run 4km, you will only be able to run 3km after a bad night’s sleep.
Considering the time and effort we spend looking after our physical health – gym memberships, dieting, the list goes on – we should all be making sure that we are getting enough sleep. Otherwise we might be like the proverbial King Canute, trying to stop the waves: trying in vain to prevent the inevitable.
As if the physical effects weren’t bad enough, sleep also affects your brain.
- Depression: Again, there is a close link between sleep deprivation and depression and anxious episodes. You have not allowed your brain to recover from the trauma of the day, much like you need to rest a muscle after a big day. It becomes, as Shakespeare so astutely put it, the balm to hurt minds.
- Memory impairment: When we sleep, it gives our brain the chance to slow down and encode the events of the day into our short term memory. If we fail to sleep, it is similar to deleting a word document without saving it. In recent years, sleep experts have warned against the all-nighter when studying for an exam. All the evidence says that it might actually be counterproductive. We can’t learn, recall or grow without a decent night’s sleep.
- Slower cognition: Scientists have found a link between poor sleep and poor judgement, alertness and concentration. It becomes super difficult to give something your complete focus. Consider yourself in your job operating at half your capacity. That is effectively your reality when you come to work without having had a good night’s sleep.
I am aware that at this point, many readers will be feeling somewhat desperate. A lack of sleep isn’t always down to choice. Sometimes, it is completely out of our control. FIrstly, don’t panic. There are ways for us to develop better sleep hygiene.
- Consider an antihistamine like restavit tablets to provide a hard reset to poor sleeping patterns. There are times we lie awake and don’t feel fatigued at all. Your body and mind are racing. Restavit tablets cause the central nervous system to slow down which helps you feel like you’re settling down for the night.
- Find a routine throughout your week. Irregular sleeping patterns throw your circadian rhythm out, and make quality sleep much less likely in the following days. Interestingly, you can’t even catch up on sleep on the weekend. Regularity is key here.
- Reduce your caffeine and nicotine. These drugs are stimulants. They block adenosine, a chemical in your brain that brings on sleep. But at a point, they release it in one fell swoop which is why you feel energetic right up until you crash.
- Signal to your body that it is time to sleep. Unwind, lower the lights, read a book. Most importantly, get rid of your devices. The screens keep you awake, and nothing good happens on a phone after 6pm anyway. Hot baths can drop your body temperature once you do climb into bed, so that you’re more likely to go to sleep
- As always, if nothing else is working, you should talk to your doctor. There are other options if your sleep issues are becoming chronic.
Clearly, I am an evangelist for good sleep hygiene. Whatever it takes: Restavit tablets, daily routines, hot baths. Being more like George Clooney is a great life choice in almost everything else. Imagine how phenomenal he would be with a full night’s sleep under his belt!