It's a common belief that humans need at least seven hours of sleep per night to maintain their health. But in recent years, that number has fallen dramatically. Whether it's due to longer work hours, more technology in the home, or an increasingly busy lifestyle, many individuals now don't get the amount of sleep they need. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to both your physical and mental well-being.
Sleep is essential for our bodies to rest, so the amount of sleep you get affects how productive and energetic you are. Too much sleep can mean you're lazier and less focused, while too little will have the opposite effect - causing lethargy and impairing cognitive performance. In either situation, we're not operation at our full potential. And this can lead to health concerns, with lack of sleep being linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even depression.
Poor sleeping habits also causes our biology to be out of sync. Too much shut-eye leads to higher levels of melatonin, the hormone that tells your body when it's time to sleep. With lower levels of sunlight, it can cause you to sleep longer and feel drowsy during the day. Meanwhile, too little sleep disrupts your body's production of hormones and other chemicals, leading to difficulty eating regular meals in the long run. This, in turn, might lead to overeating, as your craving for sugar and processed foods increases, or worse, developing an unhealthy relationship with food.
On top of that, disturbed patterns of sleep can take an emotional toll. Oversleeping can make one feel foggy and disinterested in activities, whereas sleep deprivation will leave an individual feeling overwhelmed, irritable, and on edge. The effects of either can quickly spiral, leading to problems within relationships, difficulty functioning in the workplace, and even perpetuating destructive behaviors.
Unmanaged sleep problems can significantly affect quality of life, but fortunately, there are steps to be taken to find a healthy balance. The key is to establish a healthy sleeping schedule and stick to it everyday. It’s also important to ensure your bedroom is a comfortable environment and limit disruptions from light from screens and noise from outside sources. The most important factor, however, is to identify and reduce sources of stress and cortisol, the hormone that interferes with sleep.
It is up to us to be aware of the damaging consequences of too little or too much sleep. By taking care of our bodies and creating healthy bedtime habits, we can be sure we get the rest we need for both our physical and mental wellbeing.
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