Sleep is as essential to health as a balanced diet and regular exercise. Yet many seem to relegate this bodily need to the sidelines. Work and entertainment take precedence over getting a good eight hours rest. The choice of cut sleeping hours usually backfires later on in the form of insomnia, a sleep disorder characterised by interrupted sleeping patterns or difficulties in falling asleep.
Of the two occurrences that typify insomnia, interrupted sleep has shown to be more detrimental to health than shorter but uninterrupted sleeping duration. Both conditions of course soon wreak havoc on the mind’s cognitive and emotional functions as well as the body’s energy and immune system; however, chronic interrupted sleep seems to be the bigger, badder culprit that can bring anyone down faster than sleeping straight for only four hours a night can.
Interrupted Sleep Dampens Positive Mood Quickly
Sleep quality is as important as sleep duration for someone to get healthy, ample rest. Studies however show that waking up repeatedly during the night contribute to depression, fatigue, and confusion more speedily than short sleeping hours. A study conducted at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine by assistant professor of psychiatry, Patrick Finan, compared interrupted sleep and shortened sleep. A total of 62 people with good sleep patterns were divided into three groups. For three nights, the first group was woken up several times in the night; the second group was required to sleep very late, and the lucky control group were allowed to have a good night’s sleep.
Comparisons in the data showed that both the interrupted sleepers and the abbreviated sleepers reported a drop in positive mood after the first night. After the second and third nights however the interrupted group reported a continued decline in positive mood vis-a-vis the short sleeping group which, although not as perky as when they first started, reported no further drops in positive mood. Finnan then concluded that interrupted sleep diminishes positive mood more than it intensifies negative emotions.
Interrupted Sleep Disrupts the Sleep Cycle
Sleep happens in stages and cycles through them. From sleep with slow wave patterns, one progresses to REM (rapid eye movement) in sixty to ninety minute cycles. Interruptions to this pattern cuts periods of deep restorative sleep. When this happens, it is like not having had any rest at all. Disruption to the sleep cycle then results in mood drips, lessened cognitive abilities, low energy, and the like.
Small Changes in Circadian Rhythms Could Negatively Affect Health
Changes like shifts to daylight saving time can disrupt your circadian rhythm and create a negative impact on your mental and physical health. Even a one hour difference in change to one’s sleeping schedule spells a huge difference between getting enough sleep and disrupted sleep.
A study has shown that cutting one’s sleep from 7 ½ hours to 6 ½ hours a night could raise the risk of multiple and chronic illnesses such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Increased production of corticosterone, as stress hormone that dampens the creation of new brain cells in the hippocampus
- Alters the metabolism, decreasing the capacity for weight loss and maintenance
- Inhibits melatonin production which in turn decreases the body’s ability to fight cancer cells and tumors.
- Raises the risk of one becoming pre-diabetic
- Premature aging because of interference with the growth hormone (GH). Low levels of GH can result in decreased muscle mass, weakened immune system, increased fat tissue, and other health issues.
How to Improve Your Sleep
Improving your sleep may sometimes just boil down to routine. Here are some suggestions to boost your sleep hygiene:
- Avoid blue light at least one or two hours before bedtime. Blue light is that emitted from electronic devices such as cellphones, tablets, and computers.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Avoid huge meals or spicy food close to bedtime.
- Sleep in a very dark room. Even a little light from your night light or alarm clock could be interfering with sleep. Turn off, cover, or remove anything that disrupts complete darkness. Better yet, sleep with an eye cover and blackout curtains.
- Shower or bathe warm one and a half to two hours before bedtime.
- Expose yourself to morning sun daily for ten to fifteen minutes. The sunlight habituates your internal clock to respond to daytime properly and reduces its confusion with weaker light signals at night.
- Avoid letting your dog, cat, bird, or other pet sleep in your bedroom. Animals have their own schedules and more often than not, they tend to disrupt your sleep.
There are a lot of tips out there that can help you fix problems of interrupted or shortened sleeping hours. Rest is essential. For the sake of your mental and physical health, make your sleep a priority.