How Sleep Impacts Your Health | Dr. Ali GhaharySleep is one of the most important things you can allow your body to do. It doesn’t just improve your mental health – it improves your physical health, too, and can significantly reduce your risk of developing serious illness. In fact, getting adequate amounts of sleep each night is just as important as ensuring you get regular exercise each day as well as have a healthy, well-balanced diet. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body will give off warning signs. For example, you might feel lethargic the next day, be unable to follow through on important tasks, an inability to concentrate, and have poor performance at work or school. While failing to get seven to eight hours of sleep on a few occasions may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it can become a serious problem over time and can have quite the domino effect on your health, putting you at an increased risk of certain medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes – all of which can significantly reduce your quality of life, or even be fatal. Your immune system is also impacted by how little or how much sleep you get. When you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system can weaken. As a result, this makes you much more susceptible to developing viruses like the common cold, influenza, and even COVID-19.

Along with our physical health, sleep also plays a crucial role when it comes to our brains. As mentioned, you may experience issues with concentration or have what’s often referred to as “brain fog.” Inadequate sleep can also lead to problems with both short and long-term memory, as well as problem-solving skills. In addition, it can also affect your mental health. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, you may become more emotional, be quick-tempered, as well as develop anxiety or depression. If you are someone who is already struggling with their mental health, lack of sleep can exacerbate psychological problems.

In many cases, people often don’t realize just how important it is to get enough sleep. While you might be used to getting a shorter amount of sleep than what’s recommended, what you’re not able to see is the underlying negative build-up that it is potentially having on your overall health. That being said, there are also many common reasons why someone might not be getting enough sleep (that can easily be fixed), with technology being one of the biggest culprits. Things like computers, tablets, smartphones, and televisions emit blue light which can disrupt the brain’s production of melatonin, making it harder for you to fall (and stay) asleep. To prevent this, you should avoid using these types of devices at least two hours before going to bed. In addition, it’s also not recommended that you have a TV in your room, as this can be a distraction that prevents you from getting the sleep you need.

Your diet can also play a role in how much sleep you’re getting or not getting. Data has shown that those who consumed unhealthy foods that were high in sugar and saturated fats tended to have inadequate sleep compared to individuals who had healthy, well-balance diets that were rich in vitamins and minerals (i.e., fruits and vegetables.) To make sure you’re not kept awake at night you should also avoid caffeine, as this is a stimulant and can cause disruption to your sleep cycle.

By making small lifestyle changes, you should be able to improve your sleeping habits. If you’re still having difficulty sleeping, whether it’s having trouble actually falling asleep or feeling like you’re not getting enough of it, you should discuss this with your physician.