Why is Sleep So Important To Your Health?
...And How Can You Get More Shut-Eye?
The Anatomy of Sleep Sleep is measured physiologically by electrical changes in the brain. Sleep is quantified in the amount of time spent in or out of REM (Rapid Eye Movement). The duration from the beginning of Non-REM to the end of REM is an important aspect of your sleep pattern. This is referred to as sleep architecture. Sleep architecture varies widely across species, and is thought to be significantly influenced by genetics. But no matter your eye or hair colour, or where you’re from, you’ve heard of the general importance of 7-8 hours for optimal health. There is a reason for that. In order to achieve optimal sleep, it is necessary to experience full and uninterrupted sleep cycles. It takes the average person about 90 mins to get through one full sleep cycle. Sleep research has concluded that we need 4-6 cycles per night to feel our best. Do the simple math and we need 7-8 hours. But accomplishing optimal sleep isn’t as easy as clocking 8 hours on your pillow. You need ideal sleep hygiene to set the stage. To begin, here are ten reasons to get sleep hygiene optimized!
Choose like Goldilocks First of all, don’t push snooze! Research shows that snoozing doesn't benefit you. Getting too little – and even too much sleep – seems to negatively affect memory according to the Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study whose findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Get just the right amount of sleep!
Memory Booster Science has previously shown that those of us who are regularly sleep-deprived are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and narrowed blood vessels. Each of these can decrease blood flow inside the brain. Brain cells require ample oxygen and sugar. Without ideal blood flow to the brain this will affect its ability to work properly and recall information. During sleep you can strengthen memories and practice skills you learned while awake in a “virtual” environment.
Dreaming of 100 Just like food, too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan. A study just done in collaboration between the University of California and the American Cancer Society, was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry which included more than a million participants over the age of 30. It found that people who slept for eight hours or more, or less than four hours, had a significantly higher death rate than those who managed six or seven hours a night.
Anti-inflammatory Inflammation is a medical buzz term of the day for a reason. It is the underlying cause linked to the most prevalent illnesses plaguing modern society: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get six or less hours a night have higher blood levels of inflammatory protein – known as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) – than those who get ideal amounts.
Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology from the London-based Whitehall II study showed that each hour per night decrease in sleep duration increased both CRP and IL-6 –markers of inflammation associated with risk of heart disease.
Enhance Creativity In addition to making memories stronger, your brain appears to reorganize them. Scientists think this may result in more creativity. Researchers at Harvard University found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help instigate the creativity.
Mood Support Sleep is like pushing the emotional reset button. When sleep is disrupted or inadequate, it can lead to increased tension, vigilance, and irritability. In fact, an inability to sleep – or getting too much – is one of the key signs of clinical depression. Having a sleep disorder does not in itself cause depression, but chronic sleep deprivation does play a role.
Paradoxically, some recent research including a study conducted at The University of California, Berkeley published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed temporary REM deprivation was associated with an antidepressive effect.
Pro-sleep If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance. You got it, catch your zzz’s! A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.
Intelligence and Attention Children between the ages of 10 and 16 who have sleep apnea and other related sleep disorders are more likely to have problems with attention and learning according to a recent study in the journal Sleep. The result is an inability to learn and remember what is taught. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that children who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive and inattentive, the hallmarks of ADHD.
Body Composition Sleep and metabolism control is found in the same area of the brain. When you are sleep-deprived, hunger hormones go up. If you are trying to lean up, you need to ensure you get your 7-8 hours. When you don’t get enough sleep, you lose muscle mass according to research conducted at the University of Chicago.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people were starved of sleep, late-night snacking increased, and they were more likely to choose high-carb snacks. It turns out that if you’re sleepy, you crave the wrong foods and have a harder time saying “no”.
DUI’s vs DUD’s Here is the FYI: Driving Under Drowsiness (DUD) for just one night can be as detrimental to your driving ability as having an alcoholic drink! Sleep deprivation causes impaired reaction time and decision making. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, being tired accounted for the highest number of fatal single-car crashes due to the driver’s performance. It turns out that is even more than alcohol!
Poor sleep hygiene is likely one of the most common problems encountered in our society leading to sleep deprivation. We stay up too late and get up too early. We have over-exposure to artificial light which impedes the hormones that regulate sleep. We interrupt our sleep with drugs and chemicals. We work too many hours sustained on too much caffeine. Not to mention, we fill our heads with negative news headlines just before we hit the hay. Here are tips to achieve optimal sleep hygiene.
-Use comfortable bedding that helps you regulate temperature. Research shows 20 degrees celsius (or 68 degrees fahrenheit) is optimal.
-Set your alarm twice in 24 hours. The first alarm should go off at your bedtime! This will alert you to the time you need to hit the sack to achieve the necessary 7-8 hours.
-Don't take your worries to bed. Create a written list and leave it in the kitchen. Practice relaxation techniques before bed such as deep breathing and visualization. Tell yourself the list is done and you will get to it in the morning.
-Drown distracting noise, and eliminate as much light as possible. Consider an eye mask. Snoring or congestion? Try a nasal strip to open the airways!
-Avoid napping more than 15 mins. Longer than that and you run the risk of entering into a sleep cycle (above) thereby robbing one of the sleep cycles from happening at night.
-Avoid alcohol and caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. Caffeine avoidance is obvious. But where alcohol may have immediate sleep-inducing effects, a few hours later as the alcohol levels fall – this interrupts your sleep cycle.
-Exercise intensely and regularly, but not right before bed! Aim for the morning time to exercise. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you run the risk of increasing body temperature which makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
-Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you to sleep. A formula commercially available and researched for its safety and efficacy in keeping you asleep is called “Zen Bev” a formula created using pumpkin seeds yielding a high amount of naturally occuring tryptophan.
-Watching TV in bed is a bad idea. Besides some of the controversial evidence about its light emission, it is a very engaging medium that tends to keep people up by keeping minds overly active.
– Your goal should always be how to determine the best methods to sleep naturally, but always seek the advice of your doctor or healthcare professional if these methods aren’t working.