On this episode of Sisters Without Shame a friend in crisis says that sleep is an enemy of her progress. In fact, if she could live without sleep, she wouldn’t mind it if it meant maximising her productivity in her day-to-day life. But risks associated with sleep deprivation include high blood pressure, diabetes, and decreased libido, among others.
This is according to experts in physiology, Dr Stella Lacovides and Professor Karine Scheuermaier, who unpack the importance of sleep this week.
Sleep is an important function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up.
“People sleep a third of their lives, so it must be for a good reason,” says Scheuermaier. “We do know what happens when we do not get enough sleep. We know that there are very dire consequences; some of them have to do with our general health.”
Scheuermaier adds, “People who do not sleep enough tend to have more high blood pressure, they tend to have more cardiovascular complications as well in general and they tend to have more problems with their immune system but also people who do not sleep well generally tend to have high risks of diabetes.”
Lacovides and Scheuermaier are senior lecturers in the University of the Witwatersrand’s department of physiology. Both have done extensive research in sleep science.
Shut the screens down
The best part about technology is always being connected and never truly shutting down or logging off. Right? Wrong, says Lacovides who warns that shutting down that blue screen could improve your sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene refers to a set or variety of behavioural responses and environmental habits that support better sleep quality, Lacovides explains. “It is things that we can do, and things that we can change in our environment to help us to sleep better,” she says.
Some examples of sleep hygiene techniques include a regular bed time and wake-up time. “Have a consistent time when you go to bed and what time you wake up. That helps with the alignment of our *circadian rhythms,” she elaborates.
“There are other things of course, like sleeping in a comfortable bed in a dark room, quiet environment, keep away all your devices an hour or two before bedtime…don’t take caffeine before bedtime, don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. These are things known to interrupt rest, so we are saying remove them to help your natural rhythm of sleep to occur as it should.”
What happens as we grow older?
Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly.
But what happens when we grow older? Sleep patterns tend to change as you age. Most people find that aging causes them to have a harder time falling asleep, says Scheuermaier.
“If you complain about it, surely it is not meant to be like that. We cannot deal with too little sleep. We know that when we are ageing everything changes, our body changes we have more lines… and you have sort of your own lines inside your brain.”
A solution presents itself through meditation, adds Lacovides. “Things like meditation will grow specific parts of your brain. There is quite a bit of evidence that shows that it has impact on the size of your frontal lobe.”
Health For Mzansi word of the Day
*Circadian rhythm: Professor Karine Scheuermaier defines circadian rhythms as physical, mental and behavioural changes that follows a 24-hour cycle. The process responds to primarily to light and dark and affects all the living things like animals, plants and even microbes.
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