Getting a Good Night's Rest: Healthy Sleep Habits during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Getting a good night's rest while trying to manage life under lockdown can be challenging. Besides anxiety and lack of physical activity, staying indoors is not actually conducive to sleeping at the right hours or falling asleep early and staying asleep.
With such unprecedented challenges and changes in our daily routine, getting a good night’s rest has indeed become worrisome. But, thank heavens that the spread of the disease is slowly getting under control.
And while we are waiting for the world to be pandemic free, we should somehow try to get back to the healthy habits of sleeping adequately.
Why is sleep important?
You probably know that sleep is vital to being healthy. Besides enabling your body to repair and recover, sleeping keeps you be fit and ready for the next day. Getting adequate sleep may also help other processes such as gaining excess weight, preventing heart or brain disease, and prolong illness duration. Below are the most common reasons why adequate sleep is essential to health:
1. Makes your immune system stronger
As we mentioned previously, sleep aids the body in repairing and regenerating cells in the body. When you are sick, and your body encountered pathogens, sleeping helps speed up the recovery process. Studies show that better sleep quality even plays a role in fighting off infection.
Scientists, however, are still looking to do further research into how better sleep does this, including the exact mechanisms and its impact on our body's immune system.
2. Improved concentration and productivity
In a 2015 study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers mentioned that sleep patterns of children have a direct impact on behaviour, as well as academic performance.
Several studies in the early 2000s also looked at the effects of sleep deprivation on a person's wellbeing. In one particular research, the scientists found out that sleep deprivation has an impact on cognitive performance. They said that it can be linked to several brain functions, including attention, concentration, long-term memory, working memory, productivity, and other cognitive functions such as visuomotor performance. Visuomotor performance refers to skills when movement and vision work hand in hand to produce actions.
3. Helps a person consume fewer calories
Evidence suggests that getting a good night's rest can help in calorie regulation. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), sleep patterns are linked to the hormones in the body that is responsible for appetite. This means that if a person is deprived of enough sleep, it can have adverse effects on the body's ability to regulate food intake correctly. You can read the impacts of insufficient sleep on a person's calorie regulation here.
4. Lowers the risk of weight gain
Along with better calorie regulation, sleeping adequately has been associated with reduced risk for weight gain and obesity. Although the specific mechanism regarding short sleep patterns and weight gain is not completely clear, several studies say that there is a link between sleep duration and weight gain in adults.
5. Reduces the risk of heart disease
According to CDC, short for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resting long enough or getting adequate sleep each night can help the body in blood pressure regulation. They say that during normal sleep, a person's blood pressure goes down. If you have sleep problems, they mentioned that your blood pressure might stay elevated for a more extended period. Furthermore, it has been concluded that adequate sleep can lower the chances of other sleep-related conditions, such as better overall heart health and sleep apnea disorder.
6. Aids in Preventing Depression
The link between mental health and sleep deprivation has been the subject of many scientific studies for a long time. In a study published by JAMA Psychiatry, it was concluded that a lack of sleep contributes to an increased risk of suicidal ideation. Over ten years, the researchers examined suicide patterns and sleep deprivation. The results of the study indicate that poor subjective sleep quality has been linked with an increased risk for suicide mortality ten years later. It shows that disturbed sleep patterns confer considerable risk, even after adjustment for the symptoms of depression.
In a separate study, the researchers of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry said that those with insomnia and other related sleep disorders are likely to develop signs and symptoms of depression. Their conclusion is that there is a relationship between lack of sleep, insomnia, and depression.
7. Improve emotional and social intelligence
Another important reason for sleeping adequately is that a person's emotional and social intelligence can be significantly improved. Professionals even say that people who don't sleep much are more likely to have issues such as difficulty recognizing other people's emotions and personal expressions. In fact, a scientific study published in the Journal of Sleep Research says that a person's emotional empathy gets reduced if they lack sleep.
How long should you sleep?
Healthy adults usually need eight hours of sleep on average. And while sleep duration requirements vary slightly from person to person, they say that seven to nine hours of sleep per night may be needed to function well.
In the Sleep Health Journal, health authorities published a guideline on how much sleep people need at each age. The following is the image from the National Sleep Foundation that indicates all the sleep duration recommendation for all ages:
However, it is also essential to pay attention to your own individual sleep duration needs by assessing all other factors. You can start by answering the following questions:
- Are you at risk for any other disorders such as sleep apnea?
- Are you concerned with other health issues, such as being overweight?
- Do you experience sleep problems?
- Do you feel happy and healthy when getting eight hours of sleep?
- Do you feel like sleeping for nine hours of quality sleep can make you more productive?
- Do you feel sleepy when doing various activities at work or when driving?
- Do you need and depend on caffeinated drinks such as coffee or black tea to get you through the day?
These are the most common questions that you must answer before you try to find the most appropriate sleep duration that works for you. For instance, if you sleep seven hours a day and yet, still feel sleepy during the day, you might wanna increase your sleep duration to eight hours. But, remember that sleeping longer hours is not always the solution to sleep problems. Some people sleep nine hours and still feel tired or not productive.
Oversleeping: Why sleeping for more extended periods is unhealthy?
Oversleeping. Although not as much of an issue to some compared to getting too little sleep, sleeping for more extended periods also appear to have some serious health risks. Research says that in some ways, spending an excessive amount of time sleeping can influence several areas such as cognition, immunity, and mental health, to name a few. In other cases, oversleeping may be a symptom of other illnesses implying certain underlying medical conditions.
Affects glucose tolerance
Canadian research shows a link between metabolic syndrome (conditions including high blood sugar) and sleep duration in adults. Over six years, 276 adults were observed, looking into the development of diabetes and glucose intolerance secondary to longer and shorter hours of sleep. The researchers have concluded that there is a consistent relationship between glucose tolerance or increased risks of developing type 2 diabetes and disturbed sleep patterns (both long and short sleep duration).
Affects inflammatory response
Other research indicates that getting too much or too little sleep plays a significant role in the immune response. To be specific, the researchers of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania found out that adult long sleepers (both male and female) have elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. Furthermore, people with elevated CRP levels are associated with short and extended hours of sleep.
Decreased cognitive function
In another study, using data taken from the Lumosity app, a brain-training platform, researchers found out that cognitive performance worsens when sleeping below or above the recommended sleep duration. And when people sleep for seven hours (the participant’s recommended sleep duration), their cognitive performance peaked. Other research has also linked longer sleep with memory impairments.
Increased chances of fertility
A team of researchers studied the sleep habits of childbearing women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). They found out that those who sleep for seven to eight hours had increased chances of conceiving compared to those short and long sleepers. Researchers suggested that those who sleep outside the recommended range could impair the chances of fertility.
Increased death rate
In an article published online by the Scientific American, people who sleep longer than normal range are linked to a higher mortality rate in general. Although maybe an overall result of all other issues such as those previously mentioned, it is clear that there is some association.
Increased risk for neurodegenerative diseases
Increased risk for heart diseases and stroke
A recent study using the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NAHNES) looked into the relationship between long and short sleep duration with the increased risk of stroke and coronary heart diseases. The researchers also found out in their study on habitual sleep patterns that people who sleep more than eight hours were at the greatest risk for stroke. Similar results were also gathered for individuals with coronary heart disease.
In addition, researchers from the University of Cambridge conducted a study looking into the link between stroke and sleeping for over eight hours. Over a period of 11 years, they observed 9700 Europeans and found out that people who had increased sleep duration in the study are four times at a higher risk of stroke, which suggests that oversleeping could be a warning sign or an important symptom of stroke.
Increased weight gain
Researchers also found a link between weight gain and certain sleeping patterns. Using the same data utilized by the Canadian researchers, it was concluded that sleeping below or above the recommended period could contribute to weight gain. In fact, they say that individuals who sleep over nine hours in the six-period study were more than twenty percent at risk of becoming obese. However, further research is needed because it could be that other associated factors such as high blood sugar risk contribute to weight gain for long sleepers.
It can be a potential symptom of depression
Research shows that irregularities in sleep patterns may play a significant role in the development of depressive symptoms. While oversleeping can be viewed as a potential symptom of depression, research says that sleeping longer than normal durations are more likely to have anxiety symptoms or chronic depression.
May exacerbate symptoms of pain
While it may sound appealing to get some rest or sleep when we are in pain, the study shows that in some cases, sleeping too much can make it worse. Besides back pain, spending longer amounts of time in bed is also linked to exacerbation of the so-called weekend headaches, including migraines and tension headaches. However, other factors may contribute to these headaches; that is why further studies are needed.
It affects overall mental health
In addition to depression and all the effects of oversleeping mentioned above, researchers found that sleeping for long periods can be associated with overall mental health. In the study, researchers say that adults who slept for more than ten hours reported worse mental health conditions in comparison to those who sleep within the recommended range.
Make an effort to get adequate sleep regularly
Current-day living with the pandemic issue has caused many people to embrace the routine of doing movie marathons and other activities while staying at home. Many individuals even neglected the necessity for adequate sleep or sleeping within the recommended sleep duration range. Yet, it is vital that we make an effort to follow the standard sleep duration for a specific age range.
We hope that you try to find ways on how to improve your sleeping habits.