Health impacts of irregular sleeping patterns
How poor sleeping habits can affect your life and how to avoid them
Sleeping is a fundamentally essential recovery process for the mind and body that is used by virtually every living thing on Earth. Read here to learn more about the importance of regular sleep.
Sleeping is a fundamentally essential recovery process for the mind and body that is used by virtually every living thing on Earth. Sleep is so important that rats in extreme sleep deprivation laboratory experiments died from lack of it. But in our modern world, regular consistent sleep can sometimes feel impossible to achieve. The combination of work, school, kids, and other responsibilities make it seem like there is not enough time in the day to get everything done. Or perhaps physiological or environmental factors are keeping you from a good night’s rest. In any case, irregular sleep patterns can have multiple detrimental effects on your health.
Good versus bad sleeping habits
Most adults require from 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. This number is higher for children and babies, who need anywhere from 9-16 hours per day. For many people, missed hours during the night can also be made up during the day by napping. The important thing is spend an adequate amount of time in each of the sleep phases, which include both rapid-eye movement (REM) and non-rapid-eye movement (NREM) sleeps. In order for this to occur, you need to remain asleep and untroubled for several hours at a time. In contrast, bad sleeping habits include getting less than 7 hours of sleep per day, waking frequently at night, taking hours to be able to fall asleep, and not maintaining a consistent sleep schedule over the course of several days.
Health impacts of bad habits
Whatever the cause of poor sleeping habits, the effects can be extremely harmful to living a healthy lifestyle, with both short-term and long-term manifestations. Some of the short-term symptoms of improper sleeping habits include:
- A constant sensation of tiredness
- Loss of concentration and coordination
- Loss of appetite or binge-eating
- Need for sleeping pills to sleep and/or stimulants to feel awake
In the long-term, these habits can produce chronic insomnia and other sleep disorders, depression, and drug dependence. While some who experience irregular sleep patterns suffer these symptoms as a result of underlying conditions, most cases are self-afflicted through improper sleeping habits. These habits are often formed from behavioral patterns in response to a perceived need, such as social or work obligations. The end result is the same, though, and doctors are trending towards prescribing behavioral modification instead of pharmacological treatments for chronic insomniacs in order to combat the root of the problem.
How to establish a proper sleep schedule
The best way to avoid the negative impacts of irregular sleeping habits is to train your body and mind to follow a healthy sleep schedule:
- Establish a consistent going to bed and waking up time that you follow every day. You might not be able to fall asleep at first, but by making yourself wake up at the same time each morning, your body will want to start going to bed earlier
- Exercise regularly, as this will tire your body and make it want to sleep more
- Improve your diet by eliminating excessively fatty and sugary processed foods and bad habits such as binge-eating and mindless snacking late at night
- Make sure you have a calm, peaceful environment to sleep in
- Avoid sleeping pills and stimulants