For many, sleep isn’t something you give much thought to. There are the lucky ones who put their heads down at night and pass out until it’s time to wake up. And then there are those who think those people are very lucky because for so many others, sleep is more complicated. No matter how you sleep, it’s one activity that we all have in common. But for something we all do, sleep is an activity few people know much about– yet it plays such a big role in your health.
Some people just accept a little sleep deprivation as a part of life. They hate the mornings because they always feel terrible during them. They associate the sound of the alarm with a lot of pain, as their body begs them to go back to sleep. They drink a big coffee or energy drink and say, “That’s life.” But, it probably shouldn’t be treated so casually. Sleep is a powerful healer. And not getting enough of it is associated with chronic conditions and many health problems. Don’t sleep on the topic of sleep. Here are little known facts about this important activity.
You can’t adjust to the night shift
If you work a night job, have for years, and still haven’t adjusted to the sleep schedule, you aren’t alone. Research shows that the body isn’t mean to adjust to this schedule. No matter how long you live it, your body believes the daytime is for work and the nighttime is for sleep. For this reason, shift workers tend to struggle with performance issues and grogginess while working, and insomnia during their sleep hours.
Only humans control their sleep
There is no other mammal in the world that knowingly and willingly delays sleep or shortens sleep. Humans are the only animals that do this. In fact, we have some of the shortest durations of sleep of all of the mammals. Research suggests that’s likely because we benefit greatly from being awake for more hours than other mammals. We build things, do things, invent things…So if you feel your ambitions and goals keep you from sleeping, that may be evolution at play.
This group reports the most insomnia
If you’re going through a divorce, separation, or recently became widowed, you may want to invest in some sleep aids. Individuals going through those life changes report the highest rates of insomnia. Women report even more of it. The same study that found this showed that the sleep quality of African Americans is slightly less impacted by marital happiness than it is for Caucasian women.
There are three kinds of insomnia
To say you have insomnia doesn’t fully describe your condition. There are three kinds of insomnia, and recognizing that could bring you some solace, as you can identify your particular problem. There is initial insomnia (difficulty falling asleep in the first place), intermittent insomnia (waking up frequently), and final insomnia (waking up too early and failing to fall back to sleep).
Napping on the job
Many employers are beginning to recognize the benefits of allowing employees to take naps on the job. While sleeping little to work longer hours may seem, in theory, like it would boost productivity, it actually harms it. Research has found that sleep deprivation actually costs the American economy billions of dollars each year, as employees work slower and make too many mistakes when tired.
Napping as a miracle “drug”
Napping is not a drug, of course, but some medical experts do prescribe it to help prevent a number of health issues. One such expert states that regular napping can decrease the risk of cognitive and cardiovascular dysfunction. Research has found that, even when individuals who are not sleep-deprived take a nap, they can experience an improvement in mood and cognitive function.
Your income and your sleep
This one may not come as a huge surprise, but unemployment is associated with an increase in sleep complaints. Yet, even those who are employed but either make a low income or don’t have a higher education, also complain of poor sleep. Interestingly, other research found that salaries tend to be higher in places where people get more sleep, suggesting a complex and important relationship between financial earnings and sleep.
Some people need more sleep than others
If you’re someone who has always felt best after 10 or so hours of sleep and felt rather miserable if you get any less, you may be what is called a long sleeper. Should the need to sleep this much set on suddenly and late in life, it can be a sign of another condition. But if you’ve been like this your entire life, experts say there is nothing wrong with you. Some individuals just need that much sleep to operate at peak performance.
Sleep issues can increase with age
It’s common for sleep issues to increase with age. This can be due to health issues or stress, or the fact that incidents of sleep apnea (a leading cause of sleep disturbances) increase as people get older. However, some research suggests people need less sleep as they age. As people get older, they can mistake their increased waking hours for insomnia, when, in fact, they just don’t need as much sleep as they used to.
The higher the altitude, the lower the sleep number
High altitudes have been proven to cause an increase in sleep disturbances. The issue is strongest at altitudes of 13,200 or higher. Experts believe it’s because the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes cause breathing issues. The problem is said to subside after a few weeks at that altitude, once the body adjusts.
It’s normal to forget your dreams
Don’t be too frustrated with yourself over forgetting your dreams. Most individuals forget half of their dreams within five minutes of waking. There are many reasons for this, including the absence of a hormone associated with memory when we’re sleeping and the fact that our brains are trained to remember things we feel emotional about and/or think about often. Dreams rarely fall into that category.
Sleeping less and eating more
If sleep loss and weight gain seemed to arrive at the same time in your life, there’s a biological reason for that. There are two hormones that control appetite: Ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin increases appetite and leptin suppresses it. When you don’t get enough sleep, Ghrelin levels spike and leptin levels fall, creating the perfect storm for overeating.
Oversleeping and your weight
Once you’ve learned that not sleeping enough can cause you to eat more, you might believe that sleeping a lot could be a tool in a weight loss journey. However, research has found that both under-sleepers and over-sleepers are at risk for weight gain – more so than those who get an average amount of sleep.
Sleep affects fertility
If you and your partner are trying to conceive, it’s very important that you’re getting enough sleep. Sleep impacts the healthy production of sex hormones. It’s why you’re told to sleep often when you’re going through puberty, and it’s why women who want to have a healthy pregnancy should get plenty of sleep. Studies suggest women who work night shifts are at a higher risk for a miscarriage.
A look at sleepwalking
Sleepwalking is more common in children than in adults, but it can be more dangerous in adults. Sleepwalking is said to occur when a sleeping human is disturbed, and they are alerted to the point when they can perform physical functions but are not actually awake. The trouble with sleepwalking adults is that they may perform functions adults know how to do when sleepwalking, such as driving or using a sharp kitchen appliance.