How does your sleep look like? Maintaining a consistent sleep pattern with an adequate amount of sleep (at least 7 hours) each night is essential for overall health, especially when it comes to your hormones. And let’s be real so many things impact the quality of our sleep!  Maybe you are a new mom or are dealing with a lot of stress keeping you up at all hours of the night, it might even be related to a health condition. The list goes on.

Let’s be real, we all know that sleep is important, but what are you doing to prioritize it the best you can?

Inconsistent sleeping patterns can throw off your circadian rhythm and increase your risk of developing a number of health issues. And not getting enough quality sleep regularly can affect your mental well-being too.

Here are 5 ways inadequate sleep can impact your health negatively:

1. Fatigue – DYK people with severe fatigue may act similarly to those who are intoxicated? crazy right? poor quality of sleep over time can lead to fatigue + impact your physical & mental health.
2. Insulin resistance – Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, & liver don’t respond well to insulin + can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. Inadequate sleep is a risk factor for increased blood sugar levels which may lead to insulin resistance over time.
3. Overeating – Sleep deprivation causes changes to hormones that regulate hunger & appetite. It can increase levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin + decrease levels of the satiety/fullness hormone called leptin, which may lead to overeating.
4. Decreased libido – sleep deprivation may lower levels of testosterone, a hormone important to female sex drive. Research shows sleep deprivation may reduce physical arousal & desire in women.
5. Weakened immunity – too little sleep weakens the immune system’s defenses against viruses & infections which is no good, especially in these times.

The Sleep-Wake Cycle

The sleep-wake cycle refers to the pattern of time we spend awake and asleep every 24 hours. In addition to the sleep-wake cycle, other circadian rhythms exist to help regulate a number of bodily functions that rise and fall over the 24-hour cycle. Some of these functions include body temperature, hormone production, energy levels, and appetite. The sleep-wake cycle can be improved through better sleep practices.

Each morning as the sunlight shines, our body temperature begins to rise and cortisol (a hormone) is released, increasing our alertness and causes us to wake up. In the evening as it becomes dark outside, melatonin levels rise and body temperature lowers. Melatonin stays elevated throughout the night, promoting sleep. 

Here are 9 ways to improve sleep quality:

1. Reduce blue light exposure at night – Blue light confuses your body into thinking that it’s still daytime. There are several ways you can reduce blue light exposure in the evening such as wearing glasses that block blue light or switching devices to night shift settings. 

2. Create a wind-down routine – Having a wind-down routine can help you relax before bed. Try relaxation activities like reading a book, doing skin-care, listening to soft music, or drinking de-caffeinated warm tea.

3. Don’t drink caffeine late in the afternoon – Caffeine can worsen sleep quality, especially if you drink large amounts in the late afternoon or evening. Try and limit caffeine in the late afternoon if possible.

4. Take a relaxing bath or shower –  A warm bath or shower before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality.  

5. Go to sleep at consistent times each night – Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can help with long-term sleep quality.

6. Keep the temperatures cool in the bedroom – Test different temperatures to find out which is most comfortable for you. Studies have shown that cooler temperatures may help improve sleep at night. 

7. Avoid large amounts of fluid before bed – Excessive urination at night can disrupt your sleep. Try to limit large amounts of fluid 1-2 hours before bedtime and use the bathroom prior to sleeping if you can.

8. Invest in good quality bedding – Your bedding such as the pillows and even mattress you use can greatly affect sleep quality. Be sure to invest in high-quality bedding to help keep your body comfortable and improve overall sleep quality.

9. Talk to your healthcare provider about supplements – Supplements like magnesium or melatonin may help improve sleep quality. Talk to your provider to see if you are a good candidate.