It only takes one sleepless night to ruin social interactions and make people feel lonely, a new study showed.
-originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
“Mother nature took millions of years to perfect our sleep and we just shaved off over an hour to fit our lifestyle,” Dr. Matt Walker.
Study links lack of sleep in children to increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes when they grow up.
Researchers found that people who were sleeping less seemed to desire for more personal space and more distance from others increased. The fMRI brain images backed up this behavior. After being deprived of sleep, brain regions that usually promote socialization- in the participants- were seen to be less active on the images.
Loneliness could be seen with people witnessing even 10 to 15 minutes of sleep loss, Walker said, and it can have physical consequences, too.
The irony of loneliness is that individuals are not alone in feeling lonely. Several studies have shown an increased risk of earlier death due to feelings of loneliness.
Studies also show Sleeping in rooms that have even a little light can increase risk of depression.
“On a positive note, just one night of good sleep makes you feel more outgoing and socially confident, and furthermore, will attract others to you,” Walker said.
Lack of sleep leads to Stress on the body which may lead to weight gain, premature aging, hair loss, hormone imbalances, infertility, and lowered immune function.
Release of Stress hormones (during the day or at night) can have a huge impact on the sleep cycle as well, and it works both ways. Lack of sleep elevates stress hormones, and stress hormones can cause sleep problems.
Some Tips to Improve Sleep and Overcome Loneliness
1. Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule
Sleeping and waking up according to a regular albeit not strict schedule will make you feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times.
- Try to sleep and get up around the same time every day.
- Avoid sleeping till late—even on weekends. If you have had a late night previously, try for a daytime nap rather than sleeping till late in the morning (or wake up time).
- Take limited naps- 15 to 20 minutes in the afternoon.
- If you feel sleepy much before bedtime, get off the couch and do something that may engage you actively yet not too much, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day.
2. Control your exposure to light
Our brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert. This has an effect on the Circadian Rhythm.
- Enjoy bright sunlight in the morning.
- Spend time outside during daylight. For example: exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.
- Open the doors, windows, curtains and let as much natural light into where you are spending your day time- work or home as possible.
- Avoid bright screens like Television, Laptop, Mobile within 1-2 hours of bedtime.
- When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Think about covering up anything that emits light.
3. Exercise during the day
People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and also feel less sleepy during the day.
- The harder you exercise, the more sleep benefits you will feel. But even light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—has been found effective to improve sleep.
- Exercise helps by speeding up metabolism, elevating body temperature, and stimulating hormones such as cortisol. Yet extensive workouts should be finished at least three hours before bedtime.
- Relaxing, low-impact exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching in the evening can also help increase sleep.
4. Be smart about what you eat and drink
Your daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime.
- Caffeine and Nicotine are stimulants that can keep you awake. Avoid them for four to six hours before bedtime.
- Try to eat dinner earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bedtime. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn which can lead to sleep loss.
- It is best to limit consumption of alcohol to one to two drinks per day, or less, and to avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime.
- Drinking lots of water or other liquids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.
- Avoid sugary foods and refined carbs before bedtime.
- Night snacks help you sleep: Half a light sandwich, A small bowl of Milk or yogurt, A banana
5. Wind down and clear your head
Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well.
- If anxiety or chronic worrying seems to stay at the forefront of your thoughts at night, there are steps you can take to stop worrying and view life from a more positive perspective.
- By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
- Deep breathing. Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths, even counting while breathing can be helpful.
- Before sleeping close your eyes and think of a place that makes you feel happy, or content, or peaceful. It could be in the mountains, near the sea, driving, with friends, at the library.
- Bedtime rituals to help you relax
- Read a book or magazine under a soft light
- Take a warm bath
- Listen to soft music
- Do some easy stretches
- Wind down with a favorite hobby
- Listen to books on tape
- Make simple preparations for the next day
- Dim the lights in the hours leading up to bed
6. Improve your sleep environment
- Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet
- Keep noise down.
- Make sure your bed (bed cover, mattress, pillows) is comfortable.
7. Learn ways to get back to sleep
It’s normal to wake briefly during the night but if you’re having trouble falling back asleep, these tips may help:
- Stress over your inability to fall asleep again only keeps your body awake. So focus on the feelings in your body or practice breathing exercises.
- Don’t make sleep your goal, instead work towards relaxation. If you find it hard to fall back asleep, try a relaxation technique as mentioned above.
- Do a quiet, engaging yet not stimulating activity. Like the bedtime rituals mentioned above
- If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something or with a great idea about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day.
8. Follow Through
Some of these tips will be easier to include in your routine than others. However, if you stick with them consistently, your chances of having restful sleep will be better.
Keep in mind, some sleep problems could signify the presence of a sleep disorder such as apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, or another clinical sleep problem. If your sleep difficulties and feeling lonely don’t improve by following these, you may want to consult your physician or a sleep specialist.