You may have heard the saying that some people EAT TO LIVE while others LIVE TO EAT. I think the same can be said for SLEEP. I’m personally one of those people who SLEEPS TO LIVE, but my husband and daughter Britta (bless their hearts!) would both fall into the LIVE TO SLEEP category. :-) I could actually take a lesson from both of them because I am much more likely to be sleep-deprived than well-rested.
Thanks to insufficient sleep, Americans are in the midst of what the CDC (Centers For Disease Control) has called a public health epidemic. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep every night, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, 20% of Americans get less than 6 hours of sleep per night!
Studies show that the gap between getting enough sleep and getting too little sleep may affect your health, your mood, your weight, and even your sex life.
If you’re getting less than the recommended seven or eight hours of sleep a night, here are 14 reasons that you (and I!) might want to consider going to bed early tonight. :-)
All that time working out will do little for you if you’re not sleeping enough. People who sleep less than seven hours a night — and especially less than six — have a much higher rate of obesity. The hormone leptin plays a key role in making you feel full. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels drop. Result: people who are tired are just plain hungrier — and they seem to crave high-fat and high-calorie foods specifically.
Quality sleep can also increase growth hormone levels, which stimulate muscle growth. Aside from bulking up, human growth hormones assist in keeping your body lean, strengthening your bones, and improving circulation.
Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.
According to a 2005 University of Texas study, people with insomnia are 10 times more likely to be depressed and anxious. Taking steps to ensure adequate sleep will lead to improved mood and well-being.
Sleep regulates immune cell functions and the levels of antibodies that help the body fight off bacteria and viruses, which explains why a lack of sleep may make you more susceptible to illness.
A 2003 study at the Université Laval in Canada supports this. When researchers tested the blood of insomniacs, they found fewer infection-fighting cells than in people who get more sleep.
Protection against chronic disease.
Study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and some serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.
A study performed by the University of California suggests that people averaging less than six hours of sleep each night are at an increased risk for inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation can result in heart attack, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure. Spare yourself the increased risk of chronic disease and develop a consistent sleep schedule.
Several studies have shown that those who sleep less than six hours per night have double the rate of death from all causes.
It should come as no surprise that the healthier your body, the longer you can expect to live. With a strong immune system, an increase in growth hormone levels, and reduced inflammation, the body is better prepared to withstand whatever life throws its way.
If you don’t get enough deep sleep, you’re missing a chance to take a break from stress. Losing sleep may even increase the amount of stress that you feel because your sleep-deprived body churns out more stress hormones.
Stress hormones block storage of short-term memories, which may explain why sleep-deprived people notoriously have trouble holding onto thoughts, much to the chagrin of students who cram all night for a test.
In a recent study examining the effect of sleep on stress, participants were given an exam that was mildly stressful. Compared to those experiencing a typical night of sleep, those in the sleep deprived condition experienced higher levels of stress.
Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. Studies have shown that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate our memories from the day. If you don’t get enough sleep, those memories may not get stored correctly — and can be lost.
What’s more, people who sleep less than seven hours a night are more prone to Alzheimer’s. The glymphatic system in the brain cleans the brain of a substance called beta amyloid — which is a precursor to Alzheimer’s. This system is 10 times more active when you’re sleeping than when you are awake.
In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, scientists have found that sleep also seems to reorganize memories, picking out the emotional details and reconfiguring the memories to help you produce new and creative ideas.
Our sleeping brains continue working on problems that baffle us during the day, and the right answer may come more easily after 8 hours of rest.
Better sex life.
According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, up to 26% of people say that their sex lives tend to suffer because they’re just too tired.
In addition, testosterone (in men and women) takes a huge hit when you don’t sleep enough at night, and this can shut down your libido. You need at least six hours of sleep each night to keep testosterone at healthy levels.
While you sleep, your skin goes into repair mode. New skin cells grow and replace older cells. It’s also a time when hormonal and metabolic changes happen in the body, including your skin. A lack of sleep can disrupt those processes.
In addition, poor sleep can lead to increased stress hormones in the body that increase the severity of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis.
Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself. If we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t perform well. On the flip side, studies have found clear evidence that increasing sleep has real benefits for athletes.
One study tracked the Stanford University basketball team for several months. Players added an average of almost 2 hours of sleep a night. The results? Players increased their speed by 5%. Their free throws were 9% more accurate. They had faster reflexes and felt happier. Other studies have shown similar benefits for football players and other athletes.
The Institute of Medicine estimates that one out of five auto accidents in the U.S. results from drowsy driving — that’s about 1 million crashes a year.
Sleeplessness affects reaction time and decision making. Insufficient sleep for just one night can be as detrimental to your driving ability as having an alcoholic drink.
Many studies have shown a link between sleep loss and a lower pain threshold. Researchers have shown that losing sleep may disrupt the body’s pain signaling system, heightening sensitivity to painful stimuli. Researchers have also found that getting good sleep can supplement medication for pain.
The symptoms of sleep deprivation in children resemble those of A.D.H.D. While adults experience sleep deprivation as drowsiness and sluggishness, sleepless children often become wired, moody and obstinate; they may have trouble focusing, sitting still and getting along with peers.
A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics found that children ages seven and eight who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive.
Are you getting the recommended amount of sleep? If not, join the club, and check out my post “20 Naturals Ways To Sleep Better.”