Sleep is one of the great mysteries of life, it is not a waste of time.
Modern research has shed light on it, showing a good night’s sleep is a Key component of a healthy lifestyle, and that lack of sleep can have far-reaching consequences, affecting everything from mood, creativity and brain detoxification to DNA expression, chronic disease risk and longevity.
Each and every organ and each cell, has its own biological clock.
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for the discovery of these cellular clocks, all of which work in tandem to control and maintain biological homeostasis, regulating everything from metabolism to psychological functioning.
In our brain is a “master clock” that synchronizes these clocks and your bodily functions to match the 24-hr light and dark cycle.
When we upset the circadian rhythm by not getting enough sleep, the results cascade through our system, raising blood pressure, dysregulating hunger hormones and blood sugar, increasing the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, stress and more.
Sleep deprivation also slows reaction time, increasing risk of accidents.
Getting less than 6 hours of sleep leaves you cognitively impaired. In Y 2013, drowsy drivers caused 72,000 car accidents in which 800 Americans were killed and 44,000 were injured. This is more than died from those texting and drunk drivers combined. Even a 1 night of sleeping only 4-6 hours can impact our ability to think clearly the next day.
According to a scientific review of more than 300 studies published between Ys 2004 and 2014 to determin how many hours of sleep most people need to maintain their health, a panel of experts came up with the following recommendations.
|Age Group||Hours of sleep needed for health|
|Newborns (0 to 3 months)||14 to 17 hours|
|Infants (4 to 11 months)||12 to 15 hours|
|Toddlers (1 to 2 years)||11 to 14 hours|
|Preschoolers (3 to 5)||10 to 13 hours|
|School-age children (6 to 13)||9 to 11 hours|
|Teenagers (14 to 17)||8 to 10 hours|
|Adults (18 to 64)||7 to 9 hours|
|Seniors (65 and older)||7 to 8 hours|
Virtually all facets of our biology are affected when we skimp on sleep, as the list of health effects linked to poor sleep or lack of sleep keeps growing with each year.
Poor or insufficient sleep have been linked to the following:
|Impaired memory and reduced ability to learn new things1 — Due to your hippocampus shutting down, you will experience a 40% deficit in our brain with respect to its ability to make new memories when we are sleep deprived.|
|Reduced ability to perform tasks, resulting in reduced productivity at work and poor grades in school.|
|Reduced athletic performance.|
|Reduced creativity at work or in other activities.|
|Slowed reaction time, increasing your risk of accidents on the road and at work — Getting less than 6 hours of sleep leaves one cognitively impaired. In 2013, drowsy drivers caused 72,000 car accidents in which 800 Americans were killed and 44,000 were injured. This is more than died from those texting and drunk drivers combined. Even a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.|
|Increased risk of neurological problems, ranging from depression to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease —Our blood-brain barrier becomes more permeable with age, allowing more toxins to enter. This, in conjunction with reduced efficiency of the glymphatic system due to lack of sleep, allows for more rapid damage to occur in your brain and this deterioration is thought to play a significant role in the development of Altzheimer’s disease.|
|Increased risk of Type 2 diabetes — In one study, “excessive daytime sleepiness” increased the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 56%.|
|Weakened immune function — Research suggests deep sleep strengthens immunological memories of previously encountered pathogens. In this way, your immune system is able to mount a much faster and more effective response when an antigen is encountered a 2nd time.|
|Increased risk of Obesity — By causing a prediabetic state, lack of sleep increases feelings of hunger, even after having already eaten, which can wreak havoc on one’s weight.|
|Increased risk of cancer — Tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions. The primary mechanism thought to be responsible for this effect is disrupted melatonin production, a hormone with both antioxidant and anticancer activity. Melatonin both inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells and triggers cancer cell apoptosis meaning self-destruction. It also interferes with the new blood supply tumors require for their rapid growth (angiogenesis).|
|Increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and cardiovascular disease — As noted by professor Matthew Walker, PhD., founder and director of the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science and author of the book “Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams:””In the spring when we lose one hour of sleep, we see a subsequent 24% increase in heart attacks. In the fall, when we gain one hour of sleep, we see a 21% decrease in heart attacks. That is how fragile your body is with even the smallest perturbations of sleep…”In his book, Walker also cites Japanese research showing male workers who average 6 hours of sleep per night or less are 400 to 500% more likely to suffer 1 or more cardiac arrests than those getting more than six hours of sleep each night.Other research has demonstrated that women who get less than 4 hours of shut-eye per night double their risk of dying from heart disease. In another study, adults who slept less than 5 hours a night had 50% more coronary calcium, a sign of oncoming heart disease, than those who regularly got seven hours.|
|Increased risk of osteoporosis.|
|Increased risk of pain and pain-related conditions such as fibromyalgia — In one study, poor or insufficient sleep was the strongest predictor for pain in adults over 50.|
|Increased susceptibility to stomach ulcers.|
|Impaired sexual function.2|
|Impaired regulation of emotions and emotional perception — Amygdala, 1 of our brain’s centerpiece regions for generating strong emotional reactions, including negative ones, becomes about 60% more reactive than usual when we have slept poorly or insufficiently, resulting in increased emotional intensity and volatility.|
|Increased risk of depression and anxiety (including PTSD), schizophrenia and suicide — In fact, sleep problems are defining factors in diagnosing psychiatric disorders, and are one of the diagnostic criteria listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.2|
|Premature aging by interfering with growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep.|
|Increased risk of dying from any cause — Sleep deprivation prematurely ages us by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep. Compared to people without insomnia, the adjusted hazard ratio for all-cause mortality among those with chronic insomnia was 300% higher.|
So, Optimize your Sleep Sanctuary
|1. Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible — Even the tiniest bit of light in the room, such as that from a clock radio LCD screen, can disrupt your internal clock and your production of melatonin and serotonin, thereby interfering with your sleep (and raising your risk of cancer).So, close your bedroom door, get rid of night-lights, cover any LCD screens and windows, use blackout shades or drapes. A far less expensive alternative is to use a well-fitting sleep mask. Also refrain from turning on any light at all during the night. If you absolutely have to have some sort of night light, use a red bulb.|
|2. Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 F. — Studies show the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68F. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep.Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body’s natural temperature drop. If you don’t want to crank down the temperature on your air conditioning, sleeping naked may do the trick.One of the established benefits of sleeping in the buff is improved sleep quality, in part by preventing overheating. One study showed a surface skin temperature difference of as little as 0.08F (or 0.4C) led to sounder sleep. Studies have also found sleeping in the nude has several other health benefits, including improved metabolism and blood circulation.|
|3. Eliminate electric and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in the bedroom — These can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin, and are a significant contributor to mitochondrial damage and dysfunction, which is at the heart of virtually all chronic disease. EMF exposure has also been linked to neuronal changes that affect memory and the ability to learn. EMFs harm your body’s mitochondria by producing excessive oxidative damage, so sleeping in EMFs all night, every night, can cause or contribute to virtually any chronic ailment, including premature aging. And we do not need Wi-Fi while sleeping, so this is unnecessary exposure that is easily remedied by turning it off.|
|4. Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your bed, and avoid using loud alarm clocks — If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least 3 feet. Keep your cellphone as far away from your bedroom as possible if it must be on. If you keep it in your bedroom, either shut it down or put it in airplane mode.|
|5. Adopt a neutral sleeping position — If you are a side- or stomach sleeper and find yourself frequently tossing and turning at night and/or waking up with aches and pains, your sleeping position may be a primary culprit. It takes an average of 3 to 4 months to convert from a side sleeper to a back sleeper, and even longer when used to sleeping on your stomach.|
|6. Reserve your bed for sleeping — If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and drift off to sleep, so avoid doing these activities in bed.|
|7. Consider separate bedrooms — Studies suggest that, for many people, sharing a bed with a partner can significantly impair sleep, especially if the partner is a restless sleeper or snores. If bedfellows are consistently interfering with sleep, you may want to consider a separate bedroom. Pets may also need to be banished if their presence impair one’s sleep.|
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