Sleep. For about 12 years I did not like going to bed. Since I just could not sleep. But getting enough sleep is essential for helping a person maintain optimal health and well-being. Our bodies need sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, our body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new thought connections and helps memory retention. Without enough sleep, our brain and body systems won’t function normally and can really lower our quality of life.
And when deprived of good quality sleep, well the effects are sort of building up…Tossing and turning can make us feel tired, groggy and grumpy, it limits our mental abilities and decreases our physical health. Research links poor slumber with a number of health problems like a weakened immune system, brain exhaustion and have numerous effects on specific body functions and systems.
And on a positive note, if you sleep you increase productivity, concentration and cognition. You perform better, can prevent depression and strengthen the immune system. But most of all, you gain a better overall energy which usually leads to more joy and maybe more balance in life.
Central nervous system
Our central nervous system is the main information highway of your body, and when not sleeping well - it can be thrown off track. Sort of like driving on the freeway up to a mountain getaway but then having to stop at every single gas station.
When we sleep, pathways form between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain. This helps you remember new information. But sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted - the gas station is out of gas. Thus the brain has a hard time functioning, concentrating, signals to your body may also be delayed, decreasing your coordination and actually can cause accidents.
Sleep deprivation can also affect your mental abilities and emotional state in a negative way. You may feel that it is harder to make decisions - even if they are small and somewhat unimportant - in your mind they grow larger and you start to worry and get anxious. You can feel more impatient, moody and wonder where your concentration, productivity or creativity took off.
Our immune system and our respiratory system
When we sleep, when our body is in deep rest, our immune system cleverly produces protective substances like antibodies and cytokines that can help us fight infections such as bacteria and viruses. It can also help us build up effective protection towards illness.
So when we do not sleep, our body's strength to fight off these non-wanted infections and the recovery in case of illness can be prolonged.
Our respiratory system and our sleep have a deep and profound relationship with mutual love and care. When we wake up a lot during the night, due to breathing disorder, sleep apnea, this can cause sleep deprivation, leaving you more vulnerable to respiratory infections and amongst them just common flus or colds.
The hormone levels and cardiovascular system
Sleep also affects the levels of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which control feelings of hunger and fullness. Leptin lets your brain know you had enough food, Ghrelin is a stimulant for appetite. Without enough sleep, our brain reduces the leptin, but increases the ghrelin. In other words, if these are off - it can explain the need for nighttime snacking or late overeating.
If you sleep too little, it could also get your body to release less insulin, which helps your blood sugar (glucose) level to stay in balance. And it also lowers the body's tolerance towards glucose, and it is associated with insulin resistance, which can cause illness.
Back to the highways. The process of sleep keeps your heart and blood vessels healthy, including those that affect your blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation levels. This plays an important role in our body’s ability to heal and repair the blood vessels and heart itself.
So what do you do if you can't sleep?
It might take some time to start sleeping better, if you have been deprived of sleep for some time. There are specialists for sleep disorders, but there are also many things you can try for yourself when it comes to your own self care. Most importantly, prioritize time! Whether it is running, yoga, Breathwork, meditation or creating an evening, and potentially also a morning routine that works for you in your everyday life. And, challenge your mindset. Cause it do matters.
Sometimes we blame “time”. We take time as an excuse not to heal ourselves and look inside to fix what we may already know needs to be acknowledged. Maybe we sometimes need a guiding hand to learn how to help our bodies function like they would like to function. To re-learn how to rest, even though the surroundings are hectic, everyday life is chaotic.
On a personal note, I had sleep deprivation myself for about 12 years and had medications for it from time to time. But it was not until I got the guiding hand myself that I was able to look within, to learn how to use tools that could get my body to rest- that I actually understood the effects it had on my body, mind and soul. It took time and practice, but… (drumroll) I am sleeping well. Without insomnia, without waking up and not being able to fall asleep again. I have re-learned how to allow my body to rest and get that important sleep.
For myself the importance of prioritizing meditation, movement and Breathwork has been life changing. Deep breathing can increase the melatonin production, “sleep inducing hormone”, which is often at low levels in insomniacs. And I use Reiki to relax the nervous system and rebalance my body and create energetic boundaries from within. Everyone has different recipes, and I know for sure that you can find yours. It might seem like you have tried it all, you are almost getting annoyed with reading all the tips and tricks - but don't give up. Let me know if you would like me to support you in mindset work, or tools for release, relax and restore.
Things that can happen when sleep deprived:
Memory issues - during sleep, our brain forms nerv connections that help you process and remember new information. Vital part for our short- and long-term memory
Trouble thinking and concentration - Our concentration, creativity and problem-solving skills aren’t up to our normal standard when we don’t get enough rest
Mood changes- Too little sleep can make you moody, emotional and quick tempered. Over time, it actually can even lead to anxiety and depression.
Accidents - being drowsy during the day can increase risk for accidents and injuries from different causes
Weakened immunity - too little sleep weakens our immune system’s defenses against viruses like those that cause the common cold and flu.
High blood pressure - The risk increases for high blood pressure with poor sleep.
Risk for diabetes - a lack of sleep affects your body’s release of insulin, a blood sugar lowering hormone, thus can lead to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Weight gain - you’re more likely to overindulge even when you’ve had enough to eat due to that the chemicals that signal to your brain that you are full are off balance when you are tired, or deprived of sleep
Low sex drive - people who don't get enough sleep often have a lower libido.
Poor balance - Lack of sleep can affect your balance and coordination
Risk of heart disease- sleep deprivation may lead to increased blood pressure and higher levels of chemicals linked to inflammation, both of which plays a role in heart diseases.