How many hours of sleep did you get last night? Did you wake naturally when your body and mind were rested and ready, or did the noise of an alarm clock steal you from slumber? Did you drift off to sleep within 15-20 minutes or were you tossing and turning? Approximately 1/3 of the population experiences chronic insomnia. It’s time we wake up…to the power of sleep for optimal health.
Why does sleep matter, anyway?
Sleep impacts every single system in the body. Missing good sleep for one week impacts the expression of the genes involved in stress, inflammation, immunity, and metabolism. Shorter sleep duration leads to a shorter lifespan. Sleep deprivation has become such a concern that the US Centre for Disease Control has declared insufficient sleep a public health epidemic.
Nutrition and exercise are integral to good health, but without optimal sleep we will be unable to reset our brain and body functions each day, and overall health will suffer significantly.
Sleep impacts appetite and weight
- Studies show that people who sleep well tend to consume fewer calories than those who are sleep deprived.
- Sleep regulates our appetite helping control body weight. Sleep disruption is associated with bigger appetites and weight gain.
- Too little sleep increases concentrations of grehlin, the hormone that make you feel hungry, by more than 20%, while suppressing leptin, the hormone that is supposed to signal when you’re sated. Leptin is reduced by 15% when one is sleep deprived.
- Poor sleep is one of the strongest risk factors for weight gain and obesity in both children and adults.
Sleep impacts the health of our brain
- Sleep deprivation is directly linked to brain health and increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
- It impacts our cognitive function, including our ability to learn, concentrate, memorize and make logical decisions and choices. Confusion, memory loss, brain fog, and reduced productivity and performance are all linked to poor quality sleep.
- It recalibrates our emotional brain function, making us better prepared the following day to navigate psychological and social challenges with calmness.
- Sleep disruption and poor sleep patterns are associated with an increase in psychiatric illnesses. There is a strong association between depression and sleep quality.
Sleep impacts our ability to fight infection
- During sleep the body restocks our immune system, preventing infection and warding off sickness. Even a small amount of sleep loss can impair immune system function.
- People who sleep less than 7 hours are more likely to exhibit symptoms of the cold virus than those who sleep at least 8 hours.
- Inadequate sleep creates a stress response in the body, which alters the composition of the gut microbiome.
- Inadequate sleep substantially increases your risk of certain forms of cancer, and is linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease
Sleep impacts social well-being and connections
- Sleep quality effects creativity, insight and compassion
- Impaired sleep can lead to a reduced ability to recognize emotions in others.
- Impaired sleep impacts one’s ability to effectively read social cues.
Sleep impacts the cardiovascular system
- Poor sleep is linked to elevation in inflammatory markers associated with cardiovascular disease.
- Short sleeping (less than 7-8 hours per night) increases the likelihood of coronary arteries becoming blocked, leading to cardiovascular disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.
Sleep impacts glucose metabolism and risk for type 2 diabetes
- Sleep helps to support the body’s metabolic balance of insulin and circulating glucose. Inadequate sleep for just one week disrupts blood sugar levels enough that one would be considered prediabetic.
- Sleep disturbances are associated with increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Sleep impacts levels of inflammation in the body and brain
- Insufficient sleep has a negative impact on the gut microbiome, which can lead to inflammation
- Poor sleep quality is associated with inflammation of the digestive tract.
So, the next time you think you don’t have time to sleep, remember all the reasons why it is critical to your health. Wake up to the power of sleep for optimal health. Sleep:
- Helps control appetite and weight
- Supports brain health
- Enhances the work of the immune system
- Increases creativity and compassion
- Improves heart health and insulin balance
- Reduces inflammation and improves gut health
Sleep is a foundation of good health. Aim for consistent, good quality sleep to see improvements in your health, quality of life and longevity. Embrace sleep as if your life depends on it. It just might. If you have trouble sleeping, check out my 14 Tips for Better Sleep.