Lack of Sleep: A Public Health Epidemic

Getting decent sleep at night is a key part of a healthy lifestyle and can benefit your heart, weight and mind. It’s important to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night because lack of sleep can affect your health, looks and even your ability to lose weight. When you don’t get enough sleep at night, it doesn’t just make you cranky in the morning, but it can also lead to serious long term health risks.

Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get six or less hours of sleep a night have higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood than those who get more hours of sleep a night.

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Lack of sleep can suppress your immune system, which makes you vulnerable to infections. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation or when you’re under stress. In addition, infection fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.

Many people have experienced sickly, yellow skin and puffy eyes as a result of missing a few nights of sleep. It turns out that chronic sleep loss can also lead to lackluster skin, fine lines and dark circles under the eyes.

When you don’t get enough sleep your body releases more stress hormones. In excess amounts, this hormone can break down skin collagen, the protein that keep skin smooth and elastic.

Many of us try to sleep as little as possible. While so many things seem more interesting or important than getting a few more hours of sleep, just like exercise and nutrition are vital to staying healthy, so is getting the good night’s rest.

Sleeping Under the Stars

As summer comes to an end, and the temperatures become bearable again, now is the perfect time for a little weekend get-a-way for some peace and quiet. You might find that straying from the city lights, and venturing off to a serene place under the starlit sky may be your destination.

Heading out to an environment without clocks, deadlines, chores, and electronics is good for one’s peace of mind, and also gives you a chance to re-calibrate your sleeping patterns that have been tossed around in the midst of the work-week sea.

Being chained to your desk and excessive urgency for electronic gadgets throughout the week are guilty as charged for your lack of sleep. The byproducts of sleep deprivation and daily stresses can result in serious health problems, decrease in production levels, and destruction of  your internal clock.

Research suggests our circadian rhythms have been a mess ever since electric lighting was introduced in the 1930’s. The comforts of modern living and technology disrupt the brains circadian rhythms (your internal clock) and abbreviate the release of natural melatonin, which explains why so many of us have a hard time falling asleep and feeling like going right back to bed as soon as we wake.

The key to resetting your body’s clock is spending some time outdoors with natural lighting. Think about it, the sun goes down, the campfire comes out, a few hours later, your body takes a shift and a new sleeping pattern has been invited. The sun comes out, and you are up preparing for the day, enjoying as much sunlight as possible until sunset. After we have been exposed to these natural cues, melatonin levels are able to rise and fall, suggesting that our brain starts to promote wakefulness or sleepiness. A quiet, countryside mini-cation may be long overdue, it’s time to disconnect from you gadgets so you can experience tranquility and restoration. Just try your best not to “tweet” about it.