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There are many things that can have a negative impact on your health, but what’s the main ingredient to a healthier life? Getting a good night’s sleep.
Researchers are still discovering information about why humans sleep and what happens when we aren’t awake, but the general consensus is that sleep is more important than many people realize. Studies have tied sleep to our physical, mental, and emotional health.
These realizations have led to increased awareness surrounding sleep deprivation. The issue has become so widespread that the CDC now considers insufficient sleep to be a public health problem. The organization notes that insufficient sleep has been linked to industrial disasters, car crashes, and occupational errors that cost people their lives.
Sleep has to come first if you want to live a healthier life.
Physical Effects of Sleep
It’s known that the body repairs itself during sleep. Increased blood supply to the muscles aids in tissue repair and growth. All the way down to the cellular level, sleep is the period when the body is most active in undoing damage accrued during the day.
Increased Risk of Health Conditions
People who are chronically sleep deprived are at an increased risk of several health conditions including:
- Heart attack
Heart disease is one of the most serious health concerns connected to sleep deprivation. Regardless of other factors such as age, smoking, and exercise, studies have found that people over 45 who get six hours or less of sleep each night are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Doctors are still examining the connection, but disruptions in biological processes such as inflammation and blood pressure likely play a role.
During sleep, various hormones are released throughout the body. These hormones play a critical role in regulating bodily functions including appetite, growth, and muscle development. This is the primary reason why lack of sleep can lead to obesity. People who sleep six hours or less have elevated levels of gherlin, the hormone that stimulates hunger.
Perhaps the clearest sign of how impactful sleep is on our health is how it affects our appearance. When you’re sleep deprived your body produces more cortisol, a stress hormone known to break down collagen in the skin. This can lead to fine lines, wrinkles, dark circles under the eyes, and loose skin. Adding to the problem is a reduction in human growth hormone that helps to repair skin tissue.
Immune System Impairment
The immune system switches on during sleep in an effort to help repair the body. When a person is sleep deprived, they are more susceptible to infections. Inflammatory mediators also increase, which can negatively affect immune function.
Mental Effects of Sleep
Cognitive decline has now been directly connected to chronic sleep deprivation. In addition to physical repair, memory consolidation occurs during sleep. This allows our brain to filter information and retain the most important parts.
Lack of sleep has been shown to impair:
- Ability to Learn
- Problem Solving
- Situational Interpretations
Overall, our ability to learn and process information is compromised when we don’t get enough sleep.
Emotional Effects of Sleep
Sleep deprivation has a profound effect on mood. The National Academy’s book Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation is one of many references that note people who lack sleep are at an increased risk of depression.
When a person doesn’t get adequate sleep it can alter parts of the brain that are associated with behavior and controlling emotions. In addition to depression, this can also increase a person’s risk-taking behavior. Given this information, it isn’t surprising that sleep deprived people often have anger management issues and mood swings.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Gallup polls over the last few decades have found that 40% of U.S. adults don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. The National Institute of Health has created a sleep guide based on age that outlines how much sleep people should get each night.
For adults (19 and older), the recommended amount is 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Teens should get anywhere between 9-10 hours of sleep while school-aged children need at least 10 hours every night. Children four and under need between 11-12 hours of sleep, and babies should sleep between 14-18 hours.
Bottom line? Everybody could stand to get more shuteye in their lives. So do yourself and your health a favor by hitting the sack early tonight.