Why Getting Good Sleep Matters
"The truth of the matter is that our lives and our health depends on that sleep."
A sleep deficiency may affect our overall health more than we realize. At Smarter Nutrition, we talk about sleep constantly and with good reason — we need sleep to live! And we need enough of it and the best quality we can get. Today Dr. Keller explains why getting enough good sleep has such a profound effect on health, and connects the dots between various serious health issues and sleep deprivation. He’ll also offer some simple tips to incorporate for getting better sleep and getting circadian rhythms back on track.
- 01:24: Sleep Facts
- 02:23: Medical condition associated with sleep deprivation
- 03:19: Effects of being sleep deprived
- 10:29: Good Sleeping Habits
- 14:45: Wrap Up
The World Health Organization really recommends that we get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. In this day and age, this seems like a luxury, but we shouldn’t view it that way. The truth of the matter is that our lives and our health depends on that sleep. If you’re one of those people that wakes up in the morning and you don’t feel rested, either you didn’t get enough sleep and you need to get more, or you might have some kind of disorder that is interrupting your sleep that needs to be diagnosed and handled.
There are millions of people in the United States alone that are sleep deficient. Getting enough quality sleep is important for your health as well.
Medical Conditions Associated with Sleep Deprivation
It has been shown that the less sleep you get, the more you are at risk for a ton of different health conditions, some of which are fatal. Really, if you look at the full equation, people who get shorter sleep, have shorter lives. If you are deficient in sleep, you’re at a higher risk for things like:
- Coronary artery disease or heart issues
- Certain kinds of cancer
- Different infections
Effects of being Sleep Deprived
Being sleep deprived is a kind of stress. Your body perceives this stress and it can increase your cortisol levels. When cortisol goes up, a lot of things happen. It can precipitate weight gain, over time it can reduce your immune function. Cortisol breaks down things like the collagen in your muscles and in your skin so you can actually get worse skin from being sleep deprived.
It can lead to hunger which then can lead to weight gain. This is because there are two hormones; leptin and ghrelin that control our appetite that get out of whack when you haven’t slept. You might start seeking out carbohydrates and fatty foods, or end up eating more food that day. Leptin, which is the hormone that is supposed to tell you that you’ve had enough to eat, plummets. Ghrelin on the other hand, which is the hormone that stimulates the appetite, skyrockets. So you end up in this situation where your body is telling you to eat a lot more of something and not telling it to shut off when you’ve had enough. This can lead to weight gain and things like diabetes.
Sleep deprivation also decreases your testosterone levels. Especially in men, if you’re sleep deprived your libido goes down and you might find that you don’t heal as well or your muscle mass decreases. This is because testosterone is important for driving our metabolism. You might be set up more for things like muscle tears and sprains. Both men and women may also experience a decrease in fertility.
Poor Immune Function
When you’re sleep-deprived, your immune system also will not function properly. We have these things called natural killer cells, which are the things that seek out infections and abnormal cells, especially things like cancerous cells. Those activities just completely reduced if you’re sleep-deprived, so people who don’t get enough sleep experience a much higher risk of certain kinds of cancers. It’s actually been suggested that the sleep deprivation associated with working a night shift can be considered a carcinogen.
Increased Risk of Accidents
From a sociology standpoint, sleep deprivation can lead to accidents. Your reaction time decreases, and you’re not 100% alert. In fact, some of the most famous accidents — global accidents like the Exxon Valdez oil spill up in Alaska, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island — those have all been associated with sleeplessness on the part of someone involved.
Poor Cognitive Function
Sleep deprivation also has effects on the mind and on the brain. If you don’t get that night’s sleep, you don’t consolidate a lot of what you learn and your ability to register those memories is reduced.
Decreased Human Growth Hormone
Sleep deprivation also decreases your human growth hormone (HGH). This is responsible for increasing muscle strength, increasing growth, and improving the elasticity and the thickness of your skin. So there are many reasons to get a good night’s sleep.
Sometimes life just gets in the way of good sleep. You’ve got kids, or you work a job where you have to be on the night shift, or you work multiple jobs… there are lots of factors that make it hard to keep up good sleep habits. But since sleep is so important, it’s important to do anything you can in order to get solid sleep. It’s crucial to your health and your lifespan.
Good Sleeping Habits
- Consistency — Try to go to sleep the same time every night and try to wake up at the same time every morning. This includes weekends. Do not change your sleep schedule, as this is very disruptive to your circadian rhythm. Watch out for chemicals that can alter your sleep and avoid caffeine altogether, or at least consume it before noon. Alcohol is also very disruptive to your sleep.
- Exercise — When you exercise during the day, it helps release endorphins and this lets your body know you’re awake during that time period, and reduces stress. This will help you sleep better at night. It is best to try not to exercise later in the evening if this affects your sleep.
- Daylight — Daylight is very important. When we’re outside, the sun comes in through our eyes to our retina. This lets our nerves communicate to the brain to tell us that it’s daytime, and it helps to kind of set our circadian rhythm. If you’re not getting any daylight, try to go outside and open the windows and look outside to let your brain know that it’s day time. This way, when night comes, you’re set up in that rhythm.
- Light at night — We have a lot of artificial lights in our environment such as the light from our personal devices, street lights, headlights, and light from the TV. This can be very stimulating to the brain and disruptive to the circadian rhythm, which is the natural cycle that influences our brain and body. When your circadian rhythm is working, you sleep a lot better. Disruptions to the circadian rhythm can be devastating to our health. These disruptions can be caused by things like jet lag and even with daylight savings. In fact, daylight savings has been identified as a cause of an increase to heart attacks and accidents. Circadian rhythm is very, very important and keeping it in a nice, comfortable flow is a really good thing.
Sleep is very important. Do everything you can to try to get a full night sleep; about 8 hours. If you’re not feeling rested you need more sleep. If you’re getting 8 or 9 or 10 hours of sleep and still not feeling rested at all, you should really see you doctor to discover if you have some kind of sleep disorder like sleep apnea.
Remember all the important health benefits associated with good sleep, which help you avoid some of those devastating conditions like heart disease and cancer. If you’re having trouble sleeping work on establishing consistency. Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. Exercise during the day, get some daylight into your eyes, avoid bright lights at night, avoid alcohol and caffeine and hopefully you will be ready for much more restful nights.