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Sleep and your health

Sleep and your health

Not having a good night’s rest does not only make you grumpy and not able to stay focused, but it has severe consequences for your health. Poor sleep patterns put you at risk of developing diabetes, obesity and even heart diseases. Although everyone does experience a disturbance in their sleep, it should be noted how often this occurs for the individual. If your sleep is being disrupted to a point where it affects your quality of life, then you need to get to a doctor, ASAP! 

What is the right amount of sleep?

The recommended sleeping time is 8 hours. However, depending on a person’s age, activity level, health status, and other variables, you may need more or less sleep. A good indication would be to take note of how you feel when you wake up and how you feel throughout the day. If you wake up feeling tired and have the nagging need to take a nap during the day, then you are not getting enough sleep.

A lack of sleep can also be caused by a medical condition such as sleep apnoea, insomnia, pregnancy and many other conditions that affect sleeping patterns. 

Importance of Sleep

Prolonged lack of sleep can lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to illnesses and not be able to fight off even colds and flu. This is particularly dangerous amidst a pandemic. COVID-19 affects people with compromised immunities, so it is essential to take all the necessary precautions if you venture out in public. 

Obesity

Most people who suffer from obesity, particularly midline obesity, tend to be sleep-deprived. This could be because they have reduced levels of leptin, which is the chemical that tells your brain when you are satiated by food. The ghrelin levels increase, which is the hunger hormone that promotes fat storage, thus causing weight gain and eventually, obesity. 

Long-term sleep disorders also lead to depression and anxiety. The same way a sleepless night can make you moody, a good night’s sleep can leave you feeling relaxed and focused. So a lack of sleep can affect your overall mental health.

Studies have shown that not getting enough sleep, especially deep sleep, may lead to type 2 diabetes. The lack of sleep changes the way your body processes glucose, thus changing how your body uses it for energy.

Research also suggests that men and women are affected the same way by a lack of sleep, particularly when it comes to lowered libidos. Other common conditions that are caused by sleeping disorders are heartburn, kidney diseases, neurological disorders and thyroid disease. Some over-the-counter medication can also contribute to you losing sleep.

Can you catch up on sleep?

The short answer is no. The damage caused by chronic insomnia isn’t easily fixed. 

However, you can undoubtedly change your sleeping pattern by increasing your sleeping time – this will negate any further damage to brain cells and the body overall.  

How to create a bedtime routine

Start your new bedtime routine by winding down from the day. Make sure that the space you are in is conducive to restful, uninterrupted sleep. 

Your routine should include the following steps:

  • Establish a sleeping time, so your body adjusts to a regular bedtime.
  • Have a warm bath before bedtime, which will relax your body.
  • Relax your muscles by doing yoga stretches. Do not do any vigorous exercises as this will only increase your energy level and keep you awake.
  • Make your to-do list for the following day, so you do not feel distracted but organised.
  • Avoid using your cellphone, tablet, laptop or watching television when you are in bed. The light from the screens will affect your sleep. Make it a rule to steer clear of all devices for at least an hour before bedtime. In place of electronics, read a book or listen to calming music.
  • Sleep in a dark room, with the possibility of natural light coming in when morning comes. This will wake you up naturally. 

Developing and maintaining these methods will put you on the road to better, healthy sleeping. Remember to always consult a physician when making a change to your daily habits. 

How do I know if the doctor I need is on the Network?

Affinity Health has made it very easy for you to check whether or not your desired physician is covered. 

Finding your nearest GP is as easy as going to Affinity Health’s website and clicking on the Find a Doctor tab. You should see this tab under client resources. Then type in your city or town. 

And just like that, you will have access to a full list of doctors listing their names, addresses and contact details. 

Affinity Health members can contact us on 0861 11 00 33 to consult with an Affinity Health primary healthcare consultant, who will assess your symptoms and give you medical advice before issuing you with a script for medication or referring you to consult with an Affinity Health network GP.

Network doctors claim directly from Affinity Health. However, additional administration fees may be charged separately by the practice and cannot be recovered from Affinity Health. These will be solely at members’ expense.