The High Cost of Sleep-Deprivation
Science may still be discovering the mechanisms behind why sleep is so important to your health.
Sleep is a Key pillar of good health, equally important as healthy Real foods, pure water and exercise. An increasing number of studies demonstrate how sleep relates to our sleep-wake cycles and plays a central role in multiple processes that are Key to our health.
Chronic sleep-deprivation can also lead to depression, weight gain, risk of diabetes and cancer and increased risk of accidents.
Sleep is necessary to feel alert, be productive and creative and for optimal body functioning.
Quality sleep does not often happen naturally.
A recent study from the University Medical Center Freiburg in Germany set out to understand more about the function of sleep and the interrelationship with health disorders and treatments.
Although it may appear as if sleep is an inactive state, our brain and body are actually busy while we are sleeping
Chris Colwell, Ph.D., neuroscientist, psychiatry professor and sleep specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles recently was quoted in the NY-T’s, saying: “The study is the 1st of its kind to show markers of negatively-affected muscle fibers, skeletal systems and motor performances due to the disruption of circadian clocks, remarkably in only a few months.
They found that not only did motor performance go down on tests, but the muscles themselves just atrophied and mice physically became weaker under just 2 months under these conditions.”
Although stress, lifestyle choices and light pollution may affect the quality of sleep, there is also an underdiagnosed sleep disorder that may affect the quality of sleep you experience.
A lack of sleep may also increase the risk for dementia.
Researchers from University of California Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab discovered that a lack of sleep leaves your brain more vulnerable to proteins believed to trigger dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease has been diagnosed in almost 40-M US adults and is considered one of the more debilitating forms of dementia. This study discovered beta-amyloid, a protein associated with those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, aggregates in your brain when you are chronically sleep deprived. These deposits hinder your ability to sleep and thus set up a vicious cycle.
Bryce Mander, PhD, neuroscientist from the University of California Berkeley was quoted in California Association UC Berkeley magazine, saying: “What was unknown was whether or not that’s just a side relationship that has nothing to do with the clinical symptoms of dementia, or if disruption is part of why these toxic chemicals in the brain are causing memory loss. This is not to say that amyloid and other pathologies can’t impact memory independent of sleep. But it does suggest that part of the way it impacts memory is through sleep-dependent memory.”
Other research demonstrates that amyloid plaques, common in Alzheimer’s disease, build up more quickly in sleep deprived lab animals. A 2nd study then discovered how sleep clears toxins from your brain while sleeping, reducing your potential risk for dementia.
Risks Associated With Sleep-Deprivation
Sleep-deprivation, or a lack of quality sleep, has a significant impact on brain health and overall health and wellness. There are good reasons why it is important to develop good sleeping habits and strive to achieve quality sleep nightly.
- Increased risk of car accidents
- Increased accidents at work
- Reduced ability to perform tasks
- Reduced ability to learn or remember
- Reduced productivity at work
- Reduced creativity at work or in other activities
- Reduced athletic performance
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease
- Increased risk of depression
- Increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Decreased immune function
- Slowed reaction time
- Reduced regulation of emotions and emotional perception
- Poor grades in school
- Increased susceptibility to stomach ulcers
- Exacerbates current chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and cancer
- Cutting just 1 hour of sleep a night increases the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk and stress
- Contributes to premature aging by interfering with growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep
How to Improve Sleep Quality
Increasing the number of hours you sleep to 8 hours each night and improving the quality may help to significantly reduce risks associated with sleep-deprivation.
Below are several suggestions that may help.
- Turn your bedroom into an oasis for sleep: Your bed is a place to sleep and rest comfortably. Only 2 other activities will not significantly impede your falling asleep: reading and intimate relations with your significant other. Anything else, such as work, computers, cells phones or watching television will. Reduce any noisy interruptions from pets or outdoor activities. Consider removing your pet from the bedroom or using a white noise machine to reduce interruptions from outdoor noises.
- Establish a soothing pre-bedtime routine: Humans are creatures of habit. When we establish a soothing bedtime routine you go through each evening before bed. Activities such as a warm bath, reading a good book or relaxation exercises may help you fall asleep easier. If you have trouble, it is better to leave the bedroom and read quietly than to try even harder to fall asleep.
- Keep a consistent schedule: When you go to bed and wake up at the same times, the body becomes accustomed to the routine. This helps regulate your circadian clock so you fall asleep and stay asleep all night. Keep this routine even on the weekends.
- Get plenty of bright sunlight exposure in the morning and at Noon: Exposure to bright light first thing in the morning stops production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and signals to your body that it is time to wake up. Outdoor sunlight is best, so take a quick walk outside. Light intensity is measured in lux units, and on any given day, the outdoor lux units will be around 100,000 at noon. Indoors, the typical average is somewhere between 100 to 2,000 lux units, about 2 orders of magnitude less.
- At Sundown, dim your lights: In the evening dim lights and turn off electronic devices. Normally, our brain starts secreting melatonin between 9:00p and 10:00p, and these devices emit light that may hamper that process. After Sundown, shift to a low-wattage bulb with yellow, orange or red light if you need illumination. If using a computer or smartphone, install blue light-blocking software like f.lux, which automatically alters the color temperature of the screen as the day goes on, pulling out the blue wavelengths as it gets late.
The easiest solution is to use amber-colored glasses that block blue light. This way you do not have to worry about installing programs on all your devices or buying special light bulbs for evening use. Once you have amber glasses on, it does not matter what light sources you have on in your house.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively, Sleep well