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Feeling sick? Here are five ways your sleeping pattern may be affecting your health

Readers Lounge By Esther Muchene

Your body and especially your brain, need sleep.

While you sleep, your stress system is turned down, your cortisol levels drop, your immune system gets stronger, your brain gets smarter and cleaner, and your body releases hormones like growth hormones and testosterone.

The growth hormone is a protein hormone that has a major role in growth, and in protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism.

During sleep, your brain is processing complex information, creating and consolidating your memories, learning and remembering how to accomplish tasks and perhaps more importantly, it’s clearing out toxins. The very same toxins that are being shown to be implicated in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

How do you know you whether you are functioning from pure energy or the energy that comes from your stress hormones?

Here are 5 ways your sleeping pattern can affect your health

1. Oversleeping has been linked to a host of health problems

Even though getting too little sleep can adversely affect your health, getting to much sleep can be just as problematic. A range of studies have linked sleeping more than nine hours at night with an increased risk factor for contracting diabetes, obesity, depression, heart disease and stroke. The reality is that getting significantly more or less than the recommended eight hours a night is a cause for concern.

2. Eating before bedtime can make you hypertensive

Eating before bedtime can have a negative impact on your health. As part of the digestive process, our bodies generate stomach acid, which is used to break down the food we eat. If you lie down after eating, you can cause the acid churning in your stomach to rise up in your throat resulting in heartburn. Eventually, sleeping erratically will interfere with the body’s ability to purge stress hormones, and your blood pressure will go up as a result. Untreated, excessive high blood pressure will lead to hypertension.

3. Becoming forgetful often

During sleep, especially deep sleep, this is when you brain consolidates memory via sharp wave ripples, which also transfer any learning information from the hippocampus in your brain, which is responsible for your visual contextual and spatial memory, to the neocortex where your long term memories are stored. Lack of deep sleep therefore could be negatively affecting your ability to create and store long term memory. It may also affect your short term memory as poor sleep can raise levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can have a damaging effect on the hippocampus.

4. Sexual appetites and drive is low

With poor sleep, testosterone levels can drop which can cause a drop in libido in both men and women. Of course feeling sleepy, having low energy and being cranky add to the mix of low libido, but if you find this is an ongoing issue, you definitely want to improve your sleep routine.

5. Having a hard time losing weight

According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30% more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours. There are many causes for this.

One is that sleep loss often increase appetite and cravings high in fats and carbohydrates which is a result of decreased levels of leptin, the hormone that signals to the brain that you are satiated or full and suppresses appetite.

It also increases ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger. Less sleep is associated with low levels of growth hormone, which may translate into a slower metabolism as well.

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