Gaining weight, fuzzy thinking and premature aging are all possible results from inadequate sleep. Why and how much do we need and why the big deal?
Lots of big-time health issues are related to lack of sleep. Studies show a strong correlation between gaining weight and lack of sleep. This is probably because insufficient sleep whacks out our hunger hormones.
Leptin, (which suppress hunger) drops and Ghrelin, (which stimulates our appetite), increases. If you wake up tired or get tired during the day, you often start a vicious cycle riddled with less resiliency to stress and more reliance on carbs and caffeine. And, since snacking and slurping down the Joe only helps temporarily, you may find yourself reaching for more again and again. Getting to sleep at night might not be so easy afterwards.
That’s a big deal because studies show that consistent sleep deprivation may increase the onset and/or severity of age-related issues such as hypertension, memory loss and diabetes in addition to obesity. According to Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., at the University of Chicago, the metabolic and endocrine changes that result from inadequate sleep mimic many of the hallmarks of aging and researchers are also finding that our brains need sleep more than any other part of our bodies. The hippocampus is important for spatial learning and has the unique ability to generate new brain cells throughout life, a process called neurogenesis.
Sleep plays a role in making sure those new cells can survive which leads to the obvious conclusion that a lack of adequate sleep could prohibit the cell rejuvenation. Learning new things that require spatial memory keeps our brains young because it increases the survival rate for new brain cells in the hippocampus. Not sleeping enough eliminates that process due to the suppression of the neurogenesis, meaning long-term sleep deprivation could be detrimental to neural functioning. And, it doesn’t stop there. Adults who sleep less than they should are more prone to car accidents, depression and alcohol abuse.
Did you get get enough sleep last night? What is enough sleep? How many of you can get by with less sleep than you know you need? Just too much to get done in a day, right? Getting adequate sleep is serious business and you don’t want to mess with it on a long-term basis. I saw a segment on Good Morning America with a heart specialist who said that women are at a much higher risk for heart attacks when they get either not enough or too much sleep. Her recommendation was between 7-9 hours with 7-1/2 being optimal.
Yet, others swear by as little as five and as much as 10 hours. So, how does one know? One way is to take a long vacation and after a couple of days of catching up on your sleep debt, see how many hours you need to wake without an alarm clock. Or, if you often feel like you need coffee midday to remain functional, you’re probably not getting enough. One other thing. Properly timing out exercise is a critical part of maximizing the benefits. Vigorous exercise right before bedtime can lead to a poor night’s sleep. Sleep experts recommend exercising at least three hours before bedtime, and the best time is usually late afternoon because body temperature rises during exercise and takes as long as six hours to start dropping.
Cooler body temperatures are associated with sleep onset so it’s important to allow the body adequate time for this process. What else? Quiet time before bed; cool, dark and quiet rooms and no electronics for at least 30-minutes prior to sleep. Researchers believe that computer screens, fluorescent lights and TVs cause our brains to think it might be morning, prompting the release of cortisol. Now you know better. Sweet dreams!