What your sleep habits say about you
Sleep, we all do it - but we all do it differently. The habits we have in and around sleep can reveal volumes about our health and lifestyle. For decades studies have shown how our sleep patterns affect our health, and can sometimes indicate what we need to focus on to feel energetic, fresh and healthy. Find out what your sleep habits really say about you.
You regularly sleep less than 8 hours per night – you may be struggling with your diet
The Canadian Sleep Society recommends individuals get at least 6-9 hour of shuteye per night. A study led by the University of Colorado found that just one week of sleeping 5 hours or less per night led participants to gain an average of 2 pounds.
When the body is regularly sleep deprived there are several reactions which occur, resulting in weight gain. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin – a hormone which functions to supress appetite and encourage the body to expend energy. On the other hand, the hormone grelin, goes up. The responsibility of grelin is to trigger feelings of hunger – thus resulting in over eating and possible weight gain.
Additionally, lack of sleep changes the food we crave – making us more likely to crave fat and sugar laden foods. In general when you are low on sleep it is more difficult to make rational choices, thus leaving yourself open to making impulsive decisions relating to junk food and over eating.
You regularly oversleep – you may struggle with your health in the future
When it comes to sleep, more is not always better. Oversleeping is a condition often diagnosed as hypersomnia and is linked to higher mortality rates. According to the sleep society getting too much sleep too often can also be linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and memory loss.
Additionally, oversleeping may be a sign of mental illness – such as depression. Or it may be a result with overdoing physical or mental activity on a regular basis where the body is desperately trying to catch up for the overuse of energy expenditure. Oversleep can also be a sign of a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnoea.
If you regularly sleep more than 9 hours per night you may benefit from creating a regular sleep schedule in which you go to bed at the same time every night, and wake in the morning at the same time. Eating at the same time every day may also help. Looking further at your diet, exercise and emotional health may also be an idea, or visiting your GP might be necessary.
You wake up multiple times during the night – you may be stressed or anxious
Regularly waking up multiple times during the night is called insomnia and is often a sign of stress or anxiety. When we experience stress our nervous system kicks into fight or flight mode releasing a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol increases our heart rate, induces urination and dilates our pupils – all responses which can cause us to wake up from sleep.
According to The Sleep Society most people will return to their normal sleep patterns once the external stress has passed. If this doesn’t happen it might be a good idea to ensure consumption of a healthy diet, reduce drinking liquids, particularly stimulants close to bedtime, increase exercise, incorporate Yoga or meditation or check with your health professional if health supplementation is wise.
You are dreaming a lot all of a sudden – you may be overusing stimulants and depressants
Although there has been much headway into understanding sleep and sleep patterns, our dreams still remain somewhat mysterious. However, different studies and schools of thought have differing opinions about what causes some from going from dreaming normally to having multiple, vivid dreams a night.
Aside from those with certain brain injuries, all humans dream every single night and this is the only guideline for ‘normal dreaming’. This broad definition reveals how significantly dreams and dream memories vary between individuals.
However, Sleep Better Org suggests that changes in the amount of dreaming within a night can often be linked to the overuse of alcohol, caffeine and tobacco as they can disrupt the patterns of sleep. Sleep Better Org also links changes in dreaming to stress and an overactive nervous system in the waking state.
Additionally, certain schools of psychology, particularly, Jungian, have studied dreams in depth and believe that dream frequency, intensity and dream contents relate to our subconscious psychological state. The recommendation from these schools is to look into what your dreams might be telling you. If you take this road we recommend finding a good therapist to support you.