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Not Getting Enough Sleep Could Be Making You Feel Sick: Find Out Why & Learn How To Create Healthy Sleep Habits This Fall

Posted by Agnes Lussier-Dow NP-PHC on 18 September 2021
Not Getting Enough Sleep Could Be Making You Feel Sick: Find Out Why & Learn How To Create Healthy Sleep Habits This Fall

Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Do More Than Just Leave You Tired

Are you getting enough sleep? Of course, how much sleep you need depends on a variety of factors. However, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is between 7-9 hours each night. Unfortunately, as many as 1 in 3 adults here in Canada are not consistently getting enough sleep. 

While not getting enough sleep may not seem like much of a health concern, you may be surprised to learn how important sleep is to your overall health and wellness. Aside from feeling tired and low-energy, not getting enough sleep can take a toll on your physical and emotional health in a variety of ways. Take a few minutes to learn more about how sleep affects your health and begin building a plan for getting more (and better!) sleep this fall. 

Woman looking tired due to poor sleep habits resting head on desk with coffee cups.

How Does Sleep Affect Your Health?

Sleep is a critical part of your day. Aside from resting — something that is important in its own rite — your body is hard at work while you sleep. When you close your eyes and drift off, your brain is processing your lived experiences, storing new information and even creating memories. Your body is repairing itself on a cellular level and, while you snooze, your metaphorical “battery” is being recharged. 

Long story short, a lot of very important processes take place while you sleep without which your body would have a hard time functioning properly. 

Whatsmore, not getting enough sleep has been linked to long-term health problems “affecting the heart, kidneys, blood, brain, and mental health.” This only serves to highlight the importance of sleep for your overall health and wellness — especially as we head into the fall and what is commonly known to be “cold and flu season.”

The Physical Effects Of Not Getting Enough Sleep 

Long-term health conditions aside, there are more immediate physical effects when you aren’t sleeping enough. 

  • Of course, you will be tired and have low energy. Ironically, you may also have trouble falling asleep if you become too sleep deprived which can start a very unpleasant cycle. 

  • You may feel unusually hungry due to an overproduction of a hormone called grehlin and this can lead to overeating and trouble managing your weight and digestive issues

  • Joint and muscle pain or stiffness are not uncommon in people who are consistently getting less than enough sleep. This may be because of inflammation which has been linked to lack of sleep and can make day-to-day living uncomfortable. 

  • Lack of sleep can aggravate ongoing health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart conditions.

The Mental And Cognitive Effects Of Poor Sleep Habits

The effects of not getting enough sleep also affect the way you think and regulate your impulses and emotions. Research has shown that people who are not getting enough sleep are more likely to make impulsive decisions and to take more risks than someone who is well-rested. This can lead to accidents and injuries — especially when combined with the less than optimal physical coordination that can also be caused by lack of sleep. Additionally, a sleep-deprived mind can lead to: 

  • Memory troubles

  • Difficulty regulating your emotions (for example, over-reacting to situations you may otherwise handle calmy)

  • An increased opportunity for depression and anxiety to take hold

Woman sitting in the dark looking at a phone which is not a healthy sleep habit.

Why Aren’t You Getting More Sleep?

There are many reasons why you may not be getting enough sleep. If you work shift work, for example, finding your rhythm with sleep at unnatural hours can be very difficult. Likewise, there are many medications that can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. If that is something you are struggling with, you should consider speaking to your healthcare provider to find alternatives. 

The truth of the matter is that for most people, sleep is simply not a priority. 

In our productivity-obsessed culture, rest and sleep are seen as unproductive. As you have seen, on a physical and cognitive level, nothing could be further from the truth. Valuing sleep is an important part of valuing your overall health and wellness. Therefore, creating healthy sleep habits to ensure you get enough quality sleep each night is a must! Plenty of sleep will help to boost your physical and mental health — not to mention your immune system! 

Tips For Creating Healthy Sleep Habits This Fall

As adults, we sometimes forget that bedtime routines are for us, too! Sleep is important so be intentional about your sleep habits. With the fall season comes a perfect opportunity for getting more (and better) sleep. It gets dark earlier, the nights are cooler and as you edge closer to the winter the appeal of staying warm and cozy in your bed increases. Make the most of it by trying some of the below suggestions for better sleep. 

  • Consistency is key! Choose a realistic bedtime and stick to it every night. Staying up late should be the exception, not the rule. 

  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet. Try some white noise or a before-bed mindfulness meditation to help set a sleepy ambiance. 

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine for several hours before bed — longer if you know that these stimulants affect your sleep. Instead, try a soothing cup of chamomile tea or hot lemon water early in the evening. 

  • Stop looking at screens for at least an hour before you plan on going to bed. Or, if you must, use a blue-light filter to help reduce the “wake-up” effect the light has on your mind and body. 

  • Make sure to get enough movement and fresh air every day. Getting outside is good for your health on many levels but in terms of sleep, exposing yourself to sunlight during the day and then moving into a darker space (like your bedroom) in the evening naturally signals the body to wind down and sleep. 

The more consistent you are in your bedtime routines, the easier it will be for your body to fall and stay asleep!

Make Healthy Sleep Habits Part Of Your Health & Wellness Plan This Fall 

If you have been neglecting your sleep habits, this fall is the perfect time to make a change. Physically, getting enough sleep will provide your body with energy and stamina as well as a stronger immune system. Mentally, you will be sharp, focused and in better control of your emotions. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking sleep is unproductive — it is actually one of your body’s most productive times and an essential component of your optimal health and wellness. Take advantage of the longer nights that come with fall and make the effort to create healthy and consistent sleep habits. You’ll be glad you did when cold and flu season passes you by unscathed!

Author:Agnes Lussier-Dow NP-PHC
Tags:Seasonal HealthHealthy Sleep Habits