There are many things you have to do stay healthy. So many, in fact, that it’s sometimes difficult to stay on top of them all. That long list includes eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise and managing stress. All of those are difficult if you can’t get enough sleep.
It’s the keystone of well-being without which all the rest comes tumbling down, posing a major long-term threat to the 60 million Americans who suffer from insomnia each year. If you’re among them, you’re right to be worried, but don’t let that cause you to toss and turn at night any more than you already do.
There are measures you can take at home to improve your chances of getting a good night’s slumber, such as keeping your bedroom as dark as possible, showering at night and drinking chamomile tea before bed. It may even be as simple as buying an air purifier or humidifier (be sure to do some online research for a model that works for your family before making a purchase, though — How to Home is a good place to find reviews on home goods). But what if all that doesn’t work? It may be time to see a doctor. Here are some warning signs that you need medical attention.
Feeling tired every now and then is perfectly normal, but it shouldn’t last for days on end. Before you peg insomnia as the obvious culprit, be sure there isn’t something else to blame, such as a mood or anxiety disorder. Viral infections and diseases such as anemia and hypothyroidism also cause excessive tiredness.
There’s more to it than just being too tired to go the gym because you didn’t get your Zs. It turns out that sleep deprivation disrupts the levels of hormones that regulate hunger, causing you to crave calorie-dense foods even though you’ve already eaten enough. What’s more, that leads to fat deposits around your waist, increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
According to research cited in an article by the Valley Sleep Center, even a small reduction in the amount of sleep you get can result in a weakened immune system, thus leaving your body more susceptible to infection from viruses and bacteria, increasing the likelihood that you’ll fall sick. Flu season can be particularly dangerous.
This is often accompanied by lapses in memory, trouble finishing tasks and an inability to stay organized, and they’re all linked to a lack of sleep. Your brain remains active while you snooze, removing waste products from its cells. When that doesn’t happen, you feel “foggy” the next day and unable to think clearly.
It’s a vicious circle. Stress keeps you awake at night, and then you feel tired the next day and find it difficult to perform at work. That leads to even more stress until it all spirals out of control into a full-blown anxiety attack. Left unchecked, the process can result in serious mental health disorders.
Problems at Work
You can probably see where this is going: your job becomes increasingly more difficult as you struggle to think your way through daily duties, all the while dealing with stress that keeps building and building. If you’ve called in sick one too many times, that also does damage to your reputation in the company.
The explanation for this should be fairly obvious, but it’s also bolstered by science. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that not getting enough shut-eye can result in not being as “engaged [with] and [appreciative] of your partner the next day,” reports Everyday Health. The result? An awful lot of strain in couples.
Dozing Off While Driving
This should be the last straw. Research shows that people with difficulty falling asleep are 2.4 times more likely to die from an injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident. What isn’t mentioned is how much more likely they are to kill someone.
Hopefully, things haven’t gotten this far, and you can end sleeplessness on your own. If many of these warning signs apply to you, don’t be ashamed to ask for help from a professional. You need and deserve it.
This is a guest post from Julia, a retired board certified nurse practitioner from BefriendYourDoc.org. There you’ll find tips that she has developed to help you be your own advocate in seeking medical care, dealing with insurance companies, and how to make sure you are contributing to your own health and well-being. Her best advice? Befriend your doctor!
Image via Unsplash.