Sleep Important? Heck Yah!

Good Sleep is just as important as not smoking! 

Don’t you wish you could just conk out like this little pumpikn? What happens to us as we get older? Kids just give in and let their bodies do the work. Adults, well we push the limits when it comes to sleep!

Overall health includes time to rest and repair so this week we focus on the importance of sleep! Not only does sleep do the body good, but also rest and recovery are equally important when it comes to brain function, memory, and accident prevention.

There have been many studies showing that a lack of sleep can be linked to weight gain and even obesity. However, one recent study went a bit deeper to explore exactly how sleep affects metabolism. According to a new study published in the journal Annuals of Internal Medicine, getting four hours of sleep a night for four nights made healthy people’s bodies resistant to insulin — a condition that is a common precursor of weight gain, diabetes and other serious health problems.

In a healthy body, when you take in sugar, insulin is released from the pancreas and travels throughout the body, signaling to cells that they should absorb some of that new glucose. But when the body becomes insulin- resistant, cells are less responsive to that signal, and glucose levels rise in the bloodstream. That can lead to diabetes, which causes damage to the eyes, kidneys and nerves, and has been linked to heart disease, stroke and premature death.

In the new study, researchers recruited seven healthy, active adults — six men and one woman. Each subject went through a four-night period in which they got eight or nine hours of sleep and four nights in which they only got four to five hours. After each four- night block, the subjects underwent a glucose challenge, in which glucose is injected into the body to test for insulin resistance. They also removed fat cells from each subject to test their biochemical response to insulin.

The changes were huge: After sleeping four hours a night for four nights, the subjects’ whole-body insulin response decreased by an average of 16%, and the fat cells’ insulin response decreased by 30%. The researchers say that those levels are akin to the levels seen in diabetics or the obese. And when the team looked at the biochemical markers of an insulin response in the fat cells they removed, they found it took three times as much insulin to cause a normal response after four nights of limited sleep.

While more research is currently being done, we now know that a lack of sleep can cause serious health problems. The health problems related to a lack of sleep are just as serious as the effects of smoking or heart disease. A healthy amount of sleep is 7-9 hours per night, every night including weekends. Most Americans are currently only getting an average of 6 hours per night.

Why get your sleep? 

1. Sleepiness Causes Accidents-Sleep deprivation was a factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, and others. But sleep loss is also a big public safety hazard every day on the road. Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk.

2. Sleep Loss Dumbs You Down -Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently.

3. Sleep Deprivation Can Lead to Serious Health Problems -Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for: Heart disease, Heart attack, Heart failure, Irregular heartbeat, High blood pressure, Stroke, and Diabetes. According to some estimates, 90% of people with insomnia — a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep — also have another health condition.

4. Sleepiness Is Depressing -Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a 2005 Sleep in America poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night.

5. Lack of Sleep Ages Your Skin -Most people have experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of missed sleep. But it turns out that chronic sleep loss can lead to lackluster skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes.

6. Sleepiness Makes You Forgetful -Trying to keep your memory sharp? Try getting plenty of sleep. When we sleep our brain is able to process and store all that we have learned throughout the day.

7. Losing Sleep Can Make You Gain Weight -When it comes to body weight, it may be that if you snooze, you lose. Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity. According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours.

Recent research has focused on the link between sleep and the peptides that regulate appetite. “Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite,” says Siebern. “Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin.”

Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite. It also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Ongoing studies are considering whether adequate sleep should be a standard part of weight loss programs.

8. Lack of Sleep May Increase Risk of Death -In the “Whitehall II Study,” British researchers looked at how sleep patterns affected the mortality of more than 10,000 British civil servants over two decades. The results, published in 2007, showed that those who had cut their sleep from seven to five hours or fewer a night nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes. In particular, lack of sleep doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

9. Sleep Loss Impairs Judgment, Especially About Sleep – Lack of sleep can affect our interpretation of events. This hurts our ability to make sound judgments because we may not assess situations accurately and act on them wisely. “Studies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that they’ve adapted to that sleep deprivation — they’ve gotten used to it,” Gehrman says. “But if you look at how they actually do on tests of mental alertness and performance, they continue to go downhill. So there’s a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how impaired we are.”