In the last six months, I’ve undertaken a series of capricious, and somewhat radical, life changes. I quit my job, moved overseas, started a new relationship, moved in with said relationship and also somehow found myself living in a spare bedroom at my Dad’s. Yikes. Needless to say, drastically changing my life has resulted in less than desirable amounts of sleep.
Granted, not all my restlessness is the result of those life changes; I do have unmistakably poor sleeping habits to begin with. I’m no stranger to allowing my phone to infiltrate my nighttime routine and I even once attempted to convince my partner it provides ‘self-soothing’ benefits. It doesn’t, obviously, but my newfound insomnia has left me with a sense of perpetual sleep apathy.
But I’m not alone. According to the New York Times Bestselling author, Matthew Walker, “Two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep”.
Any quick Google search will reveal the unpleasant side effects of sleep deprivation. It leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. It also hinders your immune system, doubles your risk of cancer and is a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Pretty much everything you don’t want in life. That being said, these facts alone do not inspire anyone to create healthy sleep habits.
What may is the universally motivating concept that more sleep will actually make us more beautiful and happier.
Sign. Me. Up.
It’s no wonder my appetite has heightened as a result of my newfound sleeping patterns. Boyfriends don’t make you gain weight. Lack of sleep does! Inadequate sleep has been linked to an increase in ‘hunger hormones’. All it takes is less than five to six hours a night for the body to increase the production of ‘ghrelin’ (the hormone responsible for stimulating appetite) and to suppress the release of ‘leptin’ (the hormone responsible for feelings of fullness). Leaving us feeling under slept and overly hungry. Full disclosure: I do not believe anyone should calorie count, but studies have shown those who sleep 5-6 hours a night will consume an extra 200-300 calories a day – and that’s 73,000 extra calories a year.
Forget luxury serums, anti-aging creams and monthly chemical peels because they are achieving absolutely nothing if you are suffering from seasonal bouts of insomnia. A lack of sleep increases the body’s inflammatory response, resulting in an accelerated loss of collagen and hyaluronic acid, the substances essential for keeping skin looking dewy, plump and fresh. You see, sleep is a reparative process, it allows our cells to grow and repair. In other words ‘Beauty Sleep’ is nature’s version of ‘Botox’.
Full TMI disclosure: before all these sleepless nights I had a relatively high libido. It’s easy to engage in stimulating activities when you’re certain you’ll drift off peacefully after sex. Now I’m left staring at the ceiling till 4am or attempting (unsuccessfully) to quell my anxieties with a phone screen, meaning I’m way less inclined to indulge. Another reason why my sex life may have gone from hero to zero is due to the role sleep plays in regulating our hormones. Sleep deprivation has been proven to decrease testosterone, the hormone known to boost sexual desire in women. Researchers have also found that women, who sleep more than their nocturnal counterparts, report better genital arousal and vaginal lubrication. A sexy boon, to be sure.
Depression and Anxiety
Well-slept people are happier people. We all know that a bad night’s sleep will probably have us in a bad mood the next day, but what you might not know is that poor sleep in the long term may lead to more serious mental health issues. According to the World Health Organisation, global rates of clinical depression rose 18% between 2005 and 2015. It’s a causal link, at best. There is an overwhelming spider web of social, political and cultural issues contributing to the growing rates of depression and it would be a matter of chasing one’s tail trying to pin it down to just one. But it does leave you with a lot to think about.
Words, Alex Nuie.