The fast pace of modern life is literally killing us. Not just because of the increase in potentially fatal stress-related illnesses, but because most of us are not getting enough sleep.
The average person needs at least 7 hours of sleep a night, and most people will sleep for 8 or even 9 given a chance. But a third of the population gets 6½ hours or less, with potentially dangerous consequences.
Sleep deprivation can kill – no human has stayed awake for more than 11 days and lived – and inadequate sleep can lead to obesity and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
“But how can lack of sleep make you fat?”, I hear you ask.
Well, our circadian rhythms (the body’s internal clock) govern the production of certain hormones which help to regulate growth and thyroid function. Lack of sleep can interfere with this cycle and slow down the body’s metabolism. Also, the longer you’re awake, the more time you have to eat, and very often, the foods you crave are the least healthy ones. It’s no coincidence that the kebab shops are busiest in the wee small hours of the morning.
Maintaining A Healthy Sleep Cycle
Fortunately, there are a few simple tips for making sure that your sleep follows a healthy pattern.
Switch off your screens—TV, PC, mobile device etc—at least an hour before you go to bed. Blue light can mess up the receptors that help you distinguish night from day, confusing your body into staying awake when you should be sleeping. Do something relaxing instead, such as reading a book or meditating.
Never, never feed after midnight. You might not turn into a Gremlin, but you won’t have time to burn off those calories.
Be consistent. Going to bed and getting up at around the same times every day helps your body keep to its natural rhythms.
Keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark.
Observing these routines will promote healthy hormone functions, mental well-being and better nutrition choices, since disrupted sleep cycles tend to lead to disrupted mealtimes, and cravings for all the wrong foods.