You’ve probably heard this a thousand times before – if you want to be truly healthy, you need to get a solid night’s sleep.
Most people still aren’t getting the high-quality sleep they need due to undiagnosed sleep conditions, increased inflammation in the body, and disrupted sleep breathing.
In fact, a very recent article by NPR warned that many are “walking through life in an underslept state.”
I believe low-quality sleep is an epidemic in this country. We know 1 in 3 Americans don’t get enough sleep but how many are laying down for 8 hours a night and due to numerous interrupting factors, aren’t getting the quality sleep they need for critical processes that only occur during sleep.
There are two important factors that determine if you’re getting the sleep your body needs to stave off disease and keep you feeling energized:
- Enough sleep – seven to eight hours each night
- Quality sleep – this means with proper airflow, getting deep sleep, and without interruption
While most people realize they need enough sleep (though that doesn’t mean they do it!), the big problem is most American’s have interrupted sleep.
What prevents quality sleep
Not getting enough sleep or experiencing disrupted sleep is incredibly common. You may not even realize your sleep is affected for the most part. Your only signs of poor quality sleep could be low grade fatigue. Factors that reduce quality sleep include:
- Decrease in oxygen due to airway restriction
- Clenching your teeth
- Moving around too much
- Lack of stage three restorative sleep and OSA and UARS
- A snoring partner
- Sleeping with a pet
- Not having a dark enough room
- Exposure to too much blue light before bed
Surprising fact: It should take you about 10 minutes to fall asleep. If you fall asleep in under 5 minutes you may have a sleep condition.
Simple things such as sleeping with a pet can totally wreck your sleep without you realizing it. Take an inventory of your sleep space tonight and take note of anything that could be interrupting your sleep.
7 Surprising effects of poor quality sleep
When your body doesn’t experience the different stages of sleep – especially the deep stages of three, four, and rapid eye movement sleep (REM) – your body misses out on critical repair and recovery time.
Without the healing processes that occur in deep sleep, your body will be affected in the following ways:
- Increased inflammation in the body – Sleep loss causes inflammation in the body, a known precursor to numerous diseases.
- Decreased toxin flushing and recovery – Your brain flushes harmful toxins while you sleep, including amyloids – a contributor to Alzheimer’s.
- Impaired cognitive processes – Low quality sleep leads to impairment in memory and poor judgement. It’s also responsible for accidents, including famous disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
- Increase in disease risk – Diseases that have been linked to disordered sleep include heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, diabetes, and psychological disorders.
- Imbalanced hormones – Poor quality sleep and sleep disordered breathing can cause significant drops in testosterone levels in men. Additionally, disrupted sleep can mess with leptin, cortisol, and human growth hormone levels.
- Aging faster – When you don’t get high quality sleep, your body releases more cortisol, which increases the breakdown of collagen. Also, poor sleep leads to less human growth hormone, which is needed to repair muscles, bones, and skin.
- Weight gain and the inability to lose weight – Through its impact on the hormones ghrelin and leptin, poor quality sleep increases appetite and food cravings.
How to get better QUALITY sleep
Here are three things you can do to get better quality sleep and improve nearly every aspect of your life.
- Have your airway checked – This is the number one piece of advice I have for everyone. I frequently see patients who have shuffled from specialist to specialist looking for a solution to their health issues, which include fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, weakness, nausea, and brain fog – only to quickly point out their narrow airway or scalloped tongue.It’s estimated that 85 percent of people with sleep apnea will never receive a diagnosis. Other airway issues include upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS).
Remember, you don’t necessarily have to snore or be overweight to have sleep apnea or UARS. In fact, UARS is often called “young, thin, beautiful woman’s sleep disorder” precisely because petite women are more likely to suffer from it.
If you are tired all the time or think you might be getting poor quality sleep, make an appointment with your dentist and have your airway checked.
In the meantime, you can check the rim of your tongue for scalloping, which is an indicator of sleep disordered breathing. And you can take the STOP-Bang questionnaire, which will tell you your sleep apnea risk.
- Use blue light blockers & red bulbs – On most sleep advice lists you’ll see the recommendation to avoid screens an hour or so before bed. But the effectiveness of that advice is limited because you still have blue light coming from most lightbulbs in your home, and sometimes screens can’t be avoided (or maybe you don’t want to avoid screens). Instead, I recommend blue light blocking glasses and light bulbs with lower blue light levels for the bedroom. These light blockers help your body naturally produce melatonin and make falling asleep and getting into a deep sleep easier.
- Take helpful supplements – Some of the most helpful sleep supplements you can take include:
- Lemon balm
- Holy basil
So many people suffer from disrupted sleeping, which creeps into their health and causes a lower quality of life. Having your airway checked to be sure you’re getting the quality sleep you deserve is so important I devoted the time to write an entire book on it.
I’m one step away from shouting about the importance of sleep from the rooftops!
It’s critical we spread the word about impacted airways and how commonly they interfere with day-to-day life. Share this article with a friend who needs to know just how precious their sleep is to their overall health.