Sleep is my favorite part about being alive. There I said it. And if we take away the pressure to be perfect all the time I bet you would agree on some level as well! Sleep is my favorite activity because I know just how delicious a good night’s rest can feel. Equally, I know how a poor night’s rest can wreak absolute havoc on my day, pushing me further into the fluffy pillows that faithfully wait for me at home each day.
While I am not a sleep scientist I don’t think it takes science for you or me to understand just how important good sleep is, right? I may not know what is happening at the cellular level of my body when I stay up too late because of a Netflix-binge, but I’m surely familiar with the telltale affects the next day: mood swings, emotional fits, heavy eyelids, funky appetite and a super foggy brain.
While I obviously support a good night’s rest no matter what the science says, I want to break it down for you, here, because it is super interesting. Plus, then you will learn how Moringa can help you (once again) to help keep your health and your life together.
How poor sleep affects health
Sleep deprivation sounds like a pretty extreme problem but the truth is that we are just as vulnerable to the effects of sleep deprivation whether we get one hour of sleep or five, depending on the person. This is because the “right” amount of sleep is defined as the amount that is needed for a person to feel awake and alert, according to researchers.
So throw that recommended number of hours out of your head right now! You may only need six hours of sleep and I, admittedly, may need nine hours of sleep to feel awake and alert and that’s okay.
Poor sleep on emotions
When we don’t get sufficient sleep then we can notice some serious problems. The most noticeable (and immediately noticeable) is how poor sleep affects our emotions. The sleep-deprived brain has a difficult time registering emotions both in the self and in others. While sleep-deprived people may be able to say that they are happy they are actually less likely to show any signs of being happy. Their faces remained neutral and their bodies didn’t respond with normal markers of “happiness” like one might expect. Emotionally speaking, these sleep-deprived people were actually pretty numb.
In fact, one study found that sleep-deprived participants were less able to be grateful. Some participants were asked to keep a gratitude journal—an empirically based treatment method for depression—and others were instructed to write down their emotions each day. If all went as planned, those keeping a gratitude journal would show a boost in mood and overall happiness. Researchers found, however, that those participants that were sleep-deprived were unable to benefit from the exercise and showed no improvement in gratitude or mood at all! Though years of research and data have proven that a gratitude journal is a powerful tool against depression only a few nights of poor sleep could completely undo those effects.
Poor sleep on cardiovascular health
Poor sleep has a huge impact on cardiovascular health, so much so that poor sleep can increase morbidity due to cardiovascular issues. In one study the researchers found that those that reported getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night were 66% more likely to have hypertension than those getting an enviable 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Beyond that, sleep deprivation is now well established as a dangerous risk factor for many other cardiovascular issues such as blood pressure, glucose metabolism, hormonal regulation and inflammation. In fact, sleep deprivation is so dangerous that it is unethical to ask, and especially unethical to force, people to deprive themselves of sleep on purpose.
Poor sleep on the stress response system
Another dangerous aspect of sleep deprivation is the impact it has on our nervous system. In a way, being deprived of sleep launches your nervous system into fight-or-flight mode without the ability to get out of it. In fact, researchers found that participants that were only recently deprived of sleep—as in, just one night of poor sleep—had a 60% increase in brain activity in the stress response system compared to participants with normal sleep. While this is helpful during times of extreme stress it is incredibly detrimental to the body when it is long-term.
Anybody that finds themselves in this heightened stress response state for longer than a few hours can expect detrimental health effects. The heart becomes the most vulnerable to this extended stress response but overall mental health and clarity of the mind become compromised, as well. Eventually you can expect heart disease, weight gain, hormone disruption and inflammation to take over your body if you continue on the stress response path.
This fight-or-flight response then initiates an inflammation response throughout the body as your body panics to alleviate the phantom stress that sleep deprivation has induced. And as we already know from my earlier article here, chronic inflammation can seriously break your body down.
Men are less affected by poor sleep
Now let’s get to the interesting piece that motivated me to write this article in the first place: men are less affected by sleep deprivation and its detrimental consequences.
Remember when the Internet almost broke when “science” claimed that women need more sleep? Well, it turns out that much of the Internet misinterpreted the original study, which actually said that men are simply less vulnerable to poor sleep.
How is this possible? How do men get away with one more advantage in this ever male-centric world we live in? Because, testosterone.
Men produce much more testosterone than women and testosterone serves as a natural anti-inflammatory in the body. Just think about it; women are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis or asthma (to name a few). Each of these diseases is due to excessive inflammation. So while scientists have known this correlation between these diseases and women for sometime it has only recently become known that the reason for these differences may be due to testosterone.
How Moringa can help against poor sleep (and poor health)
So, after reading all of this I decided that there were three options for us. The first option is to get more sleep, or better quality sleep. The second option is to boost our testosterone to combat the inflammation (um, no thank you!). The third option is to add a scoop of Moringa to my daily smoothie.
As I broke down in a previous article about Moringa as an anti-inflammatory food we can support our bodies in the battle against inflammation. Moringa has been touted as a superfood over the past couple years and this is because of its large reach in health benefits. The active compounds of Moringa are so effective in battling so many ailments and this is because it first combats inflammation, the cause of most disease.
I can’t change the fact that living in Ecuador without an air conditioner means that I spend a lot of restless nights lying awake because it’s too hot to sleep. My best friend can’t change the fact that she has three kids, two pets, a job and a house to keep in order before she ever makes her way to her cozy bed. You can’t help that you have some important events or negotiations at work that keep your mind racing into the early hours of the morning. Because if we could give ourselves a great night’s rest every single night wouldn’t we be doing that already? So let’s take care of ourselves in ways that support our mental and physical health, beyond the bedroom.
Obviously, let’s try our best to give our bodies support. Let’s exercise a few times a week and eat our vegetables. Let’s try to go to bed early enough so that we feel awake and alert the next day. Let’s also add Moringa to our meals so that way we can fill the gaps that are left and combat inflammation once and for all.