The importance of sleep and how we can improve it

At Viavi:be we recognise that sleep is an integral part of your overall wellbeing, as well as in helping you avoid ill health. Humanity has long been interested in uncovering the mysteries of sleep, and today we understand more about sleep than we have at any point in history.

How lack of sleep affects many aspects of your life

We now know quality sleep has enormous benefits on learning, memory, processing stress, managing immune systems, managing hunger and metabolism, and managing cardiovascular health, as well as avoiding the downsides of fatigue. And as well as these health benefits, the productivity increases that are associated with high-quality sleep are extensive. A recent study in America found fatigue-related productivity loss cost companies £1,500 per employee per year.

When we have sleep deprivation, insomnia, or just poor-quality sleep, we see a range of symptoms, from increased irritability, cognitive impairment, and memory lapses, to more physiological traits such as an impaired immune system, muscle aches, and an increased risk of lifestyle diseases including cardio vascular disease and cancer.

How we apply this knowledge to weight management

When trying to help members with their weight management, we incorporate our understanding that poor quality sleep increases hunger and decreases growth hormone production, and therefore increasing the risk of obesity and excess body fat.

Factors that result in poor quality sleep

Blue light

Unfortunately, modern day living is at times counter-intuitive to the process of gaining better sleep. One of the major factors we find disrupts sleep is increased access to blue light and LED devices, as they interfere with one of the key mechanisms which helps the human body know when to wake and fall asleep.

As part of our 24-hour rhythm, known as the circadian rhythm the body expects to encounter bright light in the morning and diminishing light into early evening and bedtime. The particular frequency of devices such as tablets and phones interferes with this process, and confuses the body as to when it should be preparing to sleep. As such, excessive use of technology later in the evening is often associated with poor sleep cycles and recovery.

Caffeine

Caffeine consumption is another modern-day trend which is disrupting another of our primary systems which regulates sleep. Caffeine has a direct impact on sleep pressure (another mechanism which interferes with quality sleep), as it physically blocks the receptors in the brain that are normally associated with increased sleep.

So, whilst caffeine may be useful to paper over the cracks of low energy, the fact remains that consuming an excessive amount of it is common in people with sleep and energy difficulties.

Alcohol

Where people see caffeine as a stimulant they often picture alcohol as a relaxant, and use it as self-medication for sleep difficulties, but when it comes to sleep alcohol unfortunately does anything but relax the body. Evening alcohol actually sedates the key areas of the brain involved in the circadian rhythm and fragments sleep, massively reducing its energy restoring benefit.

How our personalised plans can help

As such, at Viavi:be we work with our members to find healthier ways to relax and unwind, particularly in clients where low energy levels or insufficient sleep are a part of their clinical picture.

Alongside caffeine and alcohol, the role of movement and in particular exercise are enormous in improving sleep quality. There are also many dietary and recovery strategies that may also be applicable depending on the severity of your sleep-related issue.

We can also help with sleep apnea

Another area we work with often is sleep apnea, which is where members are starving their body of oxygen during the night. Sleep apnea is often associated with carrying too much weight around the neck, and with appropriate exercise, nutrition and weight loss these members see a significant reduction in snoring, and in the quality of their sleep during the night. Often this has been key to unlocking further benefits around weight loss and improved energy.

To find out how our lifestyle medicine service can help you manage and even reverse chronic lifestyle-related illnesses, including sleep difficulties, call us on 01865 689214.

Oliver Patrick