Why lack of sleep is bad for your health (and happiness!)
It’s official: Sleep deprivation is an epidemic. A third of adults get less than the recommended amount of sleep. Experts place the blame on job-related stress, shift work and the use of digital devices in the evening keeping the brain in wake-mode. Parents with young children also experience disrupted sleep for obvious reasons!
Lack of sleep has far-reaching short and long-term effects:
Short-term effects of poor sleep:
- Impaired cognitive function
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irritability and mood swings
- Lack of empathy
- Memory loss
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
There are plenty of things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep:
- Practise good “sleep hygiene”
- Exercise daily, but not too close to bedtime
- Cut out caffeine after midday
- Have a light dinner at dusk
- Turn off digital devices two hours before bed
Are you getting enough sleep?
Should I aim for 8 hours’ sleep a night?
“Good night, sleep tight” - if only it were that simple! It’s an old adage that’s increasingly hard to put into practice. Almost all of us will feel we aren’t getting enough - or good enough quality - sleep at some time or other in our lives. Research has shown that lack of sleep is a growing global concern that can have a serious knock-on effect on health and quality of life.
But first of all, how much sleep do you actually need?
If you’re an adult, you may well aim for 8 hours’ sleep a night. As it turns out, that widely-held belief is not far off the mark. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours’ sleep a night for adults aged 18 to 64. Children need more sleep than adults. Click HERE for a breakdown of sleep requirements by age.
Can’t sleep? You’re not alone!
Insomnia and sleep loss is a growing epidemic
If you suffer from insomnia, interrupted sleep or generally unsatisfactory rest, you are far from the only one. The CDC reports that a third of US adults get less than the recommended amount of sleep.
As for France, 73% of people wake up at least once during the night. And the pressure of parenthood amplifies the problem: 60% of people with a child feel they do not get enough sleep. Countless other studies show similar findings: The fact is that insufficient sleep is becoming a global epidemic.
Top causes of sleep deprivation
Work related stress, shift work, digital devices… and children!
The top cause of interrupted sleep is often having little ones to attend to. Children who wake up during the night have a huge impact on their parents’ sleep quality. If your kids are keeping you up at night, try these tips from a children’s sleep specialist.
Other key causes of sleep deprivation relate to work. Perhaps you are in a high-pressure job and experience significant stress during the day that spills over into the night? Or are you are a shift worker who has to repeatedly switch between sleeping during the day and during the night?
If kids waking up or work stresses aren’t to blame, could your screens be making you sleep deprived?
Digital devices keep the brain in wake-mode
Many experts believe our problems with sleep have something to do with the digitalization of postmodern living: In other words, living glued to our smartphones, tablets and other devices.
This constant stimulation keeps our minds in overdrive late into the night and the blue light from device screens inhibits the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. The stats speak for themselves: 20% of people leave their smartphones on at night, 50% are awakened by messages and 30% respond to messages straight away
5 signs you are sleep deprived
- You have difficulty concentrating: Sleep deprivation affects cognitive function, with the potential to impact on school or work performance.
- You are irritable with mood swings: A lack of sleep can affect your ability to cope with everyday life.
- You have brain fog that won’t seem to lift: Again, the effects on cognitive function can leave your brain in slow mode.
- You have difficulty relating to others: Beyond intellectual function, loss of sleep can affect your EQ, making you less able to empathise.
- You are having “senior moments” with loss of memory function.
Lack of sleep’s effect on physical and mental health
In the longer term, poor sleep quality can have further-reaching effects on your overall health. It increases what is known as your “cardiovascular risk,” putting you at greater risk of problems like strokes and heart attacks. It is also associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Beyond physical health problems, sleep is also a factor in mental health issues such as depression. It cannot be overstated: Good sleep is at the heart of good health and happiness. Read onto the next section for top tips on how to optimise your sleep.
5 tips to get a good night’s sleep
- Practice good “sleep hygiene”: That means having a set bedtime and wake-up time, which you stick to. Avoid naps and sleeping in late at the weekend as this can mess up your body’s circadian rhythm.
- Exercise daily… but not too late. A tough work-out is a great way of setting yourself up for a great night’s sleep, but make sure you leave at least 4 hours between your workout and bedtime to give your body time to relax.
- Drink caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee before midday only. This will give your body time to flush out the caffeine by bedtime.
- Eat a light dinner at dusk. Eating too much too late can cause reflux and interfere with sleep.
- Avoid electronic devices for at least 2 hours before bedtime. Also dim the lights in your living space during this time. This will help tell your brain that bedtime is approaching and stimulate the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Sleep impacts on skin quality…
Sleep deprivation worsens signs of ageing
During quality sleep, skin cell turnover is increased by a factor of 2 and skin also boosts production of its inner building blocks such as collagen and elastin. When an individual is sleep deprived, certain tell-tale signs are likely to show on the face:
- Dark circles and undereye puffiness
- Increased wrinkles and loss of skin plumpness
- Sallow, lacklustre complexion
- Skin infections and cold sores
...And skin conditions impact upon sleep quality too!
Itching due to eczema has a huge impact on sleep
At La Roche-Posay, we understand that eczema-prone skin can be intimately linked to sleep quality. 90% of children with atopic dermatitis experience night-time itching and scratching and, by the same token, 90% have disturbed sleep as a result. Click HERE to learn more about sleep disturbance in children with eczema.
We’ve proved it: The right skincare routine can reduce night-time itching
Click HERE for details of a new clinical study proving that the right atopic skincare routine - LIPIKAR Syndet AP+ at bathtime and an emollient moisturising cream such as LIPIKAR Baume AP+ in the evening - can reduce itching to transform the sleep quality of eczema sufferers… for the kind of restful night that lets you wake up feeling good and ready to take on the world.
For tips on how to help your child resist the urge to scratch, click HERE.
Discover 10 facts you need to know about sleep, click HERE.