The Science of Sleep: How Your Habits Affect Your Health and Well-being

A man sleeps on a comfortable stack of pillows under crisp white blankets, showing the importance of healthy sleep habits.

Sleep is the natural state of rest for the body. It’s when we close our eyes and allow ourselves to be unconscious for a short period of time. During this time, our bodies rest, repair themselves, and prepare for the next day. In fact, sleep is so important that it affects every aspect of your life–from how well you perform at work or school to how healthy your diet is. For many people who don’t get enough sleep at night or who have trouble falling asleep at bedtime due to stress or anxiety (a condition known as insomnia), getting enough restorative sleep can be challenging. If this sounds like something that might be happening in your life right now, read on!

The Effects of Poor Sleep

The effects of poor sleep are wide-ranging and include:

  • Impaired cognitive performance–lack of sleep can make it more difficult to concentrate, think clearly and make decisions.
  • Increased stress levels–a lack of sleep can lead to irritability, moodiness, anxiety and depression. This can cause you to feel overwhelmed by even small stresses in your life that would normally be manageable or easily ignored if you were well rested.
  • Weakened immune system–sleep helps keep our bodies healthy by strengthening our immune system so we don’t get sick as often or as easily when exposed to germs like colds or flus.

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences. It impairs judgment, increases the risk of accidents and depression, and leads to poor physical health.

Sleep and Mental Health

It’s no secret that a lack of sleep can cause depression and anxiety. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, about 50% of people with insomnia have a history of depression or anxiety. But what most people don’t realize is that this vicious cycle can go both ways: not only does poor sleep make you feel depressed and anxious–it also makes it harder for you to get better at sleeping!

Sleep and Physical Health

You need to sleep well in order to maintain your physical health. Sleep is necessary for repairing damaged tissue and building new muscle tissue, regulating hormones, and keeping your immune system strong. It also helps you stay at an ideal weight by controlling hunger cravings.

When you don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to increased risk of heart disease or high blood pressure as well as diabetes.

Sleep and Productivity

Quality counts as well as quantity. If you’re getting six hours of sleep per night and feeling tired all day, your body is not getting enough rest. Sleep can help us focus better on our work during the day and make better decisions based on facts rather than emotions or stressors.

Sleep and Weight Loss

One of the main reasons people struggle with weight loss is because they don’t understand how to regulate their hunger and satiety. This can be especially true for those who have trouble sleeping well, as poor sleep has been shown to increase appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods.

To improve your sleep related weight loss issues, try this:
  • Eat less at night time–Studies have shown that people who eat late at night tend to weigh more than those who don’t eat after 8pm. If you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy BMI (body mass index), it’s best to not only stop eating after 8pm, but also reduce overall caloric intake by 200-300 calories per day. 
  • Regulate hunger and satiety by avoiding high-calorie foods such as sweets during the day, especially right before bedtime.

Tips for Improving Sleep

There are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep: 

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule. Try to stay consistent on sleep and wake patterns during the week as well as on weekends.
  • Make sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet. This will help you get more restful sleep, which will allow for better performance during the day.
  • Next, it’s important not to consume caffeine after 2pm in order to avoid disrupting your natural circadian rhythm (or “body clock”). If possible, try not drinking any caffeine at all during the day unless absolutely necessary–it’s best if you don’t rely on coffee or soda whenever an energy boost is needed!
  • In addition, reading before going to bed has been shown as an effective way of helping people fall asleep faster because it helps them relax their minds by focusing on something other than work-related thoughts that could keep them up at night. Limit exposure to blue light in the evening and early morning hours, as well as electronic devices that emit blue light (such as tablets and smartphones).
  • Get outside during daylight hours! Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight helps regulate melatonin levels in humans–and melatonin plays an important role in regulating our circadian rhythms!
  • Exercise regularly. This can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer because it helps your body release feel-good hormones like melatonin and serotonin, which can make you feel more relaxed at night. You should avoid exercising right before bedtime because exercise may make you feel too energized to go right to sleep after working out!

If these tips don’t work for you, talk with your doctor about what else might be causing your insomnia symptoms so they can give advice on how best to treat them. 

If you’re looking for improvement and balance in your health as a whole, our Certified Health Coaches can help guide you through ways to improve your habits to help with sleep, fitness, diet, and overall healthy choices.  Book an appointment for a free 1-hour introduction to Health Coaching by clicking here.



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