Sleep is as important to our wellness as nutrition, exercise and stress management. As essential as water, it is the key to our safety, productivity, and overall quality of life. Yet according to a 2001 NSF Sleep Poll, 63% of Americans are not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep and 69% experience some form of sleep problems.
Most people understand how a good night’s sleep affects how they feel the next day, but the full impact of a poor night’s sleep (or not enough good sleep) has even greater consequences. Lack of restorative sleep can interfere with the ability to recall information, cause difficulty concentrating or solving problems, and lead to complications in making good decisions. It increases stress, makes us irritable and impatient, tampers with our ability to listen, and can cause behavioral and relationship problems. Our health and safety are also compromised because it makes us easily distracted and hinders our capacity to follow directions. Biological complications pile up over time altering the body’s immune system, accelerating aging and weight gain, and slowing recovery times from illness or injury while at the same time making us more susceptible to them. Continued lack of a proper night’s sleep can aggravate existing sleep problems such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy. It is also guilty of exasperating cardiovascular problems, lowering blood oxygen levels, increasing breathing problems, and neurological problems.
Strikingly, there are some things that won’t happen if we don’t get a good night’s sleep. Only during sleep does the body produce and release growth hormone essential to muscle development and tissue repair, Leptin that impacts appetite, Melatonin, that promotes sleep and Cortisol, which encourages alertness and is a vital element of maintaining the body’s internal natural clock.
In short, if you want the two-thirds of your life that you are awake to be enjoyable and safe, you have to pay attention to the third of your life that you are (supposed to be) asleep!