Actualizado: 2 oct
Every day our brain and body works without ceasing, but apparently, at night we stop. But that’s not true. When we are sleeping our brain and whole body have the hardest task: recharge it for the next day. So, if tomorrow you want to achieve those goals, get an A+ in your next assignment or win a basketball game, a huge part of your productivity would depend on those hours in bed. In this article, we will explore how sleep affects our body and we will offer you tips to prepare yourself for rest.
A lot of incredible things happen inside of us when we are sleeping. Our brain is recharging, our body is releasing important hormones, our cells are repairing themselves. Sadly, nowadays a lot of people are suffering from sleep problems.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1 in 3 adults don’t get a sufficient amount of sleep.
How can a lack of sleep affect our health if sleep is so important? The answers are endless. Our heart, our brain, our energy, our digestion, our beauty (believe it or not) are significantly affected if we don't rest for a sufficient amount of hours and on a correct schedule.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH), “people who do not sleep enough or wake up often during the night may have a higher risk of Coronary heart disease, High blood pressure, Obesity, Stroke''. Mariuxi Jazmin Lopez, M.D, cardiologist, specialist in obesity and hypertension in Argentina, told us in an interview that sleep is crucial for our heart because of our Circadian Rhythm. This rhythm is responsible for our different hormone behaviors during the day and night. When someone doesn't sleep at night, their hormones are still active during bedtime and our cardiovascular system doesn’t have the necessary rest. In detail, their heart can’t achieve a low blood pressure to help us relax the blood vessels. In response, cardiovascular problems appear.
The biggest problem about not sleeping and not respecting nature’s sleep schedules, that are important too because we are beings created to be awake during the day and rest during the night, is a hormone called cortisol, that helps us to be watchful. This substance needs to be off by 8pm. “But if you are awake during the night this hormone is still active and causes us to have more tendency to accumulate fat in our abdomen”, says López.
Consequently, the abdominal obesity causes more problems to sleep because of the emergence of “sleep apneas”, spaces in the night when a sufficient amount of oxygen can’t enter through our lungs. That gap of oxygen affects our heart and cardiovascular system, giving us more risk to have arterial hypertension, arrhythmias, and multiple cardiovascular diseases.
Why is the Circadian Rhythm so significant?
In a 2022 poll, National Sleep in America (NSA) found that the United States needs “significant opportunities to improve daily activities that are associated with a range of positive sleep and health outcomes”. People are not getting bright light exposure during the day and are looking at screens around bedtime. Lincolns Mendoza, M.D, pediatrician and endocrinologist in Argentina, said to us that “humans are light beings with an internal clock, the Circadian Rhythm, that depends on the light”.
Every morning, when the sun goes up, our bodies experience something called the “dawn phenomenon”, an early-morning rise in blood sugar that activates our adrenalin and other alert systems in our brain. “ It is like a motor that turns on when the sun goes up '', asserts Mendoza. When the sunlight disappears, this cycle starts to turn off. “For that reason it is so important that we create a routine that helps us to slow down when the night begins. That's the way that we are created, that's the way that our Circadian Rhythm works”.
The list of the consequences of poor sleep and incorrect schedules in our body are countless: more chances to get sick because of a weak immune system, low libido, infertility, increased risk of breast cancer, long-term mood disorders, darker under eye circles or wrinkles and fine lines in our skin (yes, our beauty care starts in our bed).
“The list of the consequences of poor sleep and incorrect schedules in our body are countless”.
Even if you are looking to lose weight, your circadian clock needs to be respected. According to NHI, the Circadian Rhythm makes sure that your liver is prepared to help digest fats at appropriate times. In fact, your routine during the night is equally important as the calories that you eat during the day.
Our phones, sleep killers? No, our bad habits are.
Daily, we use our phone as an extra hand. We take in entertainment, work and family responsibilities through our devices: shopping, groceries, talking with friends, answering emails. We are also surrounded by devices that emit blue light: tvs, computers, smart watches, and more. If we don’t have a time screen limit at night, the blue light emitted from those devices will affect the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that helps signal to the body that it is time to fall asleep.
“Most people can’t have a good night’s sleep because their eyes are activated through devices at night. We need to look out for our sleep hygiene. Turning off lights and electronic devices is important because our Circadian Rhythm can not distinguish between sunlight and other lights, between emotions received for a car accident or emotions received in a show or movie”, says Mendoza.
Making sleep a priority is essential for our health. Sleep clinicians recommend putting away all screens two or, at least, one hour before bed. Instead do light reading or other relaxing activities.
So, What should I do? Start creating healthy habits.
In accordance with a 2009 study published by Phillippa Lally, M.D, a researcher at University College London, we need 66 days with a repetitive action to create a habit. If you’ve had months of poor sleep, recovery could take several weeks.
When we are awake at night we are hurting our Circadian Rhythm, in consequence we will start eating and sleeping at bad times, it seems to be a cycle without end. To recover our rhythm, it is not the amount of hours of sleep that matters (in the beginning), it is the time that we wake up that would make a difference. “Someone that wants to correct their rhythm and sleep, needs to correct their awakening. We need to wake up when the sun rises, with the sunlight. If you make that a habit, with time, you will feel the necessity to go to sleep when the light sets”, points out Mendoza.
Furthermore, we need to focus on our sleep hygiene. Small habits like turning down all our screens two hours before bed, can give us a huge difference in our sleep quality. Let's talk about them!
Avoid heavy food at night
When we eat our digestive system starts working, so try to avoid heavy meals at least three hours before bed. This allows your body time to digest your food so you're not up at night with an upset stomach, indigestion, or acid reflux.
We don’t need to talk much about this. Caffeine keeps us alert and awake, blocking sleep-promoting receptors and secretion of Melatonin. So, if you need to drink something hot at night, try some herbal or fruit tea.
Soft and warm lights at home during the night
We need a cozy environment at night. So use lamps with warm bulbs (dimmables if possible) to tell your brain that the sunlight is over.
Activate “Night Shift” option in your devices if you need to work at night
Most of our devices have bright settings that change the blue light of our phones to a warm light when the sun goes down. In the iPhone, you can find this option in Settings > Display and Brightness > Night Shift. This is a great way to respect our Circadian Rhythm.
If you love to watch series at night, you can use orange glasses that will help you to reduce the light impact on your eyes (just try to avoid anxiety-producing content on your screen, it can affect your ability to fall asleep).
Create a Simple routine
After turning off your devices and storing them outside your bedroom, try to create simple activities that can tell your brain that it's time to sleep. A warm bath, putting on pajamas, brushing your teeth, and doing your regular facial routine can help you to slow down, relax and prepare your mind and body for the most important part of the day: recharging your energy.
Adjust your temperature
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the best bedroom temperature to sleep in is between 60 to 67 Fahrenheit. That can be too cold for some people, but there is a lot of evidence that sleeping in a cold room can help us to have a better sleep quality.
“Our bodies are programmed to experience a slight dip in core temperature in the evening. Turning the thermostat down at night may help with temperature regulation and signal your body that it’s time for bed”, explained the National Sleep Foundation.
After all these, and before closing your eyes, do a relaxing activity
It can be stretching, reading a book with soft light or praying. In the Bible, you can find a lot of Psalms that teach us prayers before sleep, those will help you to surrender all the trials of the day to your Creator, and receive peace knowing that He is in control.
Try to sleep 7 to 8 hours every night
As reported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), newborns need 14 to 17 hours, kids need between 10 to 13 hours, teens between 8 to 10 hours and adults 7 or more per night. So, try to organize your day around your sleep time, that will help you to get a sufficient amount of sleep.
Sooner or later we need to learn the importance of our body system and create healthy habits. For this reason, in our effort to prioritize our sleep, consistency is the key. Every day is a new opportunity to do things well and better. So, achieve any goal that you want before the day begins, in your sweet sweet dreams. And even if life gives you lemons tomorrow, at least you will be in a good mood.