In today’s world, everybody is stressed and busy all. the. time. It seems there are never enough hours in the day to work, maintain the house and family, get some me-time in, maintain a social life, go grocery shopping. And on top of all that, you’ve still got to find a solid 9 hours for a healthy bedtime routine and that vital 8 hours of sleep. How the heck are we supposed to do it all?
It’s easy to pick responsibilities and social time over a full night’s rest – it’s not like you’re getting anything done while you’re fast asleep in bed. But treating sleep like a chore you have to put off is doing more than making you tired in the morning. It’s doing a lot more. And believe it or not, just a night or two of inadequate sleep, let alone months to years of it, can do permanent damage to your mind and body, leaving you at risk for serious health problems and a shorter lifespan.
Sound scary? It kind of is.
First – How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
We all know someone who swears they’re their best self on 5 hours of sleep a night. And we also all know someone who simply can’t function without 10 hours. But it turns out that the optimal amount of sleep for the average adult is 7+ hours per night.
By the time you’re 60, you need closer to 9, and after 65 you need about 8 hours per night. Teens need 8-10 hours, kids need 9-12, and your littlest ones need anywhere from 11-14. For all age groups, significantly less or significantly more time than these averages can be adverse to your health.
Physical Effects of Chronic Poor & Inadequate Sleep
Something we can’t ignore when we talk about our busy schedules and forgoing those 8 hours for a measly 5 or 6 is something that disproportionately plagues lower-income communities and POC. This contributes to a cycle of poorer-than-average health and shorter-than-average lifespans in those communities, which is why it’s not only important for you to make your own space for prioritizing your sleep health, but also for us as a society to reshape ourselves to allow that space for everyone. Because it has some nasty effects on your body.
The medical maladies associated with poor sleep are often slow-setting; they creep up little-by-little. As a result, people tend not to think about sleep as a main player in why they’re feeling less-than-great more and more over time. But sleep is your body’s time to repair and prepare for the next day, so your poor sleep is whittling down your body’s resources in several vital systems:
You’re less likely to be able to fight off viruses and bacteria – even the common cold. This is because your blood doesn’t have enough antibodies and cytokines to fight things off. It follows also that you’re going to have a harder time recovering from illnesses as well.
Increased Risk for Obesity
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. One study found that women who averaged 5 hours of sleep a night were 15% more likely to be obese than those who got 7 hours average. (But by the way – 7 still isn’t enough).
Increased Risk of Developing Diabetes
Another irregularity inadequate sleep causes in your body’s regulatory systems is your blood glucose. Lack of sleep suppresses your body’s ability to produce insulin. Eventually, this suppression results in chronic high blood sugar, which leads to Type 2 Diabetes. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are almost 2x as likely to develop diabetes as those who maintain good sleep health.
The ill effects of too-little and/or poor quality sleep on your cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) is well-documented. Specifically, one study followed people over 10 years, all of whom started with no heart or blood pressure issues. After ten years, the group who did not sleep well was 45% more likely to develop heart problems than the group that slept well.
Since you’re cutting your body’s recovery time short, you are more likely to develop issues with the intricate system that is your ability to balance. This can lead to decreased ability to participate in physical activities, and increases your risk of falling and injuring yourself.
Can it Literally Kill You? (Hint: Yes)
Sleep loss has been directly linked to disease morbidity – how likely you are to fail to recover from a terminal illness, acute or chronic. A meta-analysis of sleep studies analyzed results from 1 million subjects, and concluded that people who chronically got 5 hours of sleep per night had a 15% higher risk of dying for literally any reason.
Cognitive Effects of a Less-Than-Health Sleep Schedule
Perhaps creepier than what poor sleep does to your body is what it can do to your mind. Sure, physical illness and injury can often be remedied with a little boost from medical treatments and therapies. But when it comes to the intricate mystery that is the brain, reversing neuritic and tissue death is often impossible. If you’re not prioritizing your sleep, you leave the door wide open for cognitive issues like:
Mood Irregularities, Anxiety & Depression
If you aren’t sleeping, your body’s neurotransmitters are unable to function the way they’re supposed to. Imbalances in dopamine, serotonin and melatonin cause symptoms of anxiety and depression, and hamper mood regulation. This, in turn, creates a vicious cycle, because mood, anxiety and depressive disorders are known to contribute to insomnia.
Impaired Cognitive & Memory Function
Feeling drowsy during the day can give you that brain-fog feeling, making it difficult to think creatively, problem solve and concentrate. Likewise, deep sleep is the time your brain solidifies the storage of your memories from the day; if it doesn’t have the time and space to do it, you’ll notice you have a harder time remembering both small and big things.
Poor and not-enough sleep messes with your body’s hormone levels, especially progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. People who don’t sleep enough consistently report low sex drive and sex-related difficulties.
Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias
Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep also creates a vicious cycle with proteins called amyloids. During the deep stages of sleep, your body wipes these proteins away. So if you’re not sleeping well, those amyloids build up into plaques that stick to your brain tissue. In turn, the development of these plaques then prevents you from getting good sleep. This drastically increases your risks for developing plaque-related dementias.
Your Mattress Plays an Important Role in Your Sleep Health
While it’s not the only factor in getting quality sleep, you can’t argue that you get way better sleep on a custom foam mattress than a lumpy innerspring you found at a retail place 10 years ago. Many of us fail to factor in the age and quality of our mattresses in our sleep difficulties, or maybe we just don’t want to shell out the money a new one. But there’s good news, and it’s twofold:
Made-to-measure mattresses with custom construction styles aren’t actually that expensive.
The money you spend on having a mattress tailor-made is an investment in your long-term health, not just your nightly comfort.
A quality mattress is going to do a lot of things for your – keep you comfy at night, relieve your pressure points, allow uninterrupted deep sleep with low motion transfer, help you regulate your body temperature, and support all the right parts of your spine. Yes; you get great sleep, but you also have an easier time throughout your day – more energy, less stiff and creaky joints, better concentration, etc.
CustomMattress.com curates the most ergonomic, orthopedic, comfortable, durable mattress materials on the market and make each mattress to order – customized to your desired size, construction and firmness. With choices of pocket coil, natural latex foam, cooling memory foam, and combinations of any of the three, you can design a made-for-you mattress for any sleep spot, whether you’re sleeping in an RV, your semi-truck’s cab, or a king bed at home.
What You can Do to Reap the Benefits of a Quality Sleep
All the dangers of bad sleep add up to a reduced quality of life, increased risk of poor health and mobility, and can adversely affect your professional abilities, hurting your career trajectory. So, besides that all-important mattress you should have made specifically for your sleep style and taste, there are a few other ways you can optimize your sleep:
Keep it dark in your bedroom. Invest in some great blackout curtains and low, warm lighting.
Get off of TikTok. Seriously.
White noise machines can help troubled sleepers who wake up at irregular sounds.
Don’t eat for an hour before bedtime.
Switch out your bedtime TV-watching for reading.
Get the pets out of the bed; their movements, temperature, and 3am meowing is not helping you sleep well.
Choose a mattress size with room to spread out, especially if you co-sleep.
Make sure your custom bedding is just as comfy, quality and breathable as your mattress.
Now go get a good night’s rest!