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In the quest for better health, perhaps nothing is more often overlooked than sleep. In today’s fast-paced world, we often glamorize “the grind,” wearing our sleep deprivation as some kind of badge signifying an unparalleled work ethic. In truth, quality sleep is one of the most important ways to maximize your productivity and health.
When it comes to good sleep, how much you get is just as important as the quality you get. Poor sleep habits can lead to immune deficiency, impact your focus, and even shorten your lifespan. Statistics show that those who are sleep deprived aren’t only tired during the day and suffering from a lack of concentration, but they also increase their risks for obesity, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and a host of other problems.
In order to live a healthy, productive life, quality sleep is essential. Let’s take a look at the top 10 reasons to get a good night’s sleep…and what changes you can make in order to start improving your health right now.
1 | Quality Sleep Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body begins to release a hormone called cortisol, which makes your heart work harder. But that chronic burden on your heart can lead to plenty of health risks.
A review of 15 studies found that people who don’t get sufficient sleep are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7–8 hours per night. This can lead to major problems such as an increased risk for stroke.
Did you know that heart disease is the #1 cause of death, worldwide? The next leading cause of death? Stroke. By getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, quality sleep, you can drastically reduce your risk for heart disease. But there are other factors that can make heart disease more likely… and more deadly. And they’re all impacted by poor sleep.
Which brings us to #2…
2 | Poor Sleeping Habits Can Lead to Obesity
The link between weight gain, obesity, and short sleep patterns is not completely clear. There have been several studies throughout the years that have linked obesity and poor sleep patterns. People with short sleep duration tend to weigh significantly more than those who get adequate sleep.
In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. In one extensive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to develop obesity, respectively.
However, this may have less to do with sleep deprivation itself and everything to do with the lifestyle changes that accompany it. People who don’t get enough sleep tend to work longer hours, have worse eating habits, and exercise less. Poor sleep often reflects poor self-care, and all of these factors can combine to wreak havoc on your health.
3 | Quality Sleep Helps Regulate Insulin Sensitivity
Combined with heart disease and obesity, insulin sensitivity can become lethal. When your body is not able to properly process glucose (sugar), the risk for diabetes and insulin issues skyrockets. Inability to regulate glucose can exacerbate your risk for obesity, heart disease, and… cancer.
Did you know that cancer needs glucose to survive? Due to the anaerobic respiratory mechanism exhibited by ALL cancer cells, sugar is cancer’s favorite food! What this means is that cancer feeds on sugar.
Cancer cells require lots of glucose to survive and must metabolize it quickly to generate energy. Researchers have found that oncolytic viruses were much more effective at destroying cancer cells when there was less glucose present. They also found that reducing the cell’s ability to metabolize glucose boosted the cancer-fighting properties of the virus even more.
According to one of the leading researchers, Dr. Arthur Dyer:
“Our research in the lab showed that restricting the amount of sugar available to cancer cells makes these cancer-attacking oncolytic viruses work even better. We already know that this virus is effective against cancer – and this sugar-starving technique is a way to make it even better.”
4 | Quality Sleep Improves Immune Function
Professor of Immunology Daniel Davis delivered a lecture lauding the benefits of the immune system in fighting chronic disease. Unlike chronic inflammation, he explained, acute inflammatory response allows the body to defend against microbial invaders, cancer-causing cells, and environmental toxins, and helps heal injuries and infections. He elaborated:
“Our own body’s remedy, the immune system, is far more powerful than any medicine we have devised.”
And yet, poor sleep habits may be inhibiting your immune function. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus such as the common cold. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.
5 | Poor Sleep Reduces Focus and Learning
The effects of sleep deprivation even take a toll on your brain! Five or fewer hours of sleep three days in a row can damage or kill brain cells. Eventually, the brain won’t be able to clear out the plaque-forming proteins causing Alzheimer’s’ and dementia.
Your brain needs the “sharp wave ripples” discovered by American and French researchers in 2009 in order to consolidate memory. How do you experience more “sharp wave ripples”? You guessed it! Sleep! Studies show sharp wave ripples occur most frequently during the deepest levels of sleep occurring during longer sleep.
There were several studies that scientists did in the early 2000s that looked at the effects of sleep deprivation.
What the researchers concluded is that sleep has links to several brain functions, including:
A more recent 2015 study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry showed that children’s sleep patterns can have a direct impact on their behavior and academic performance.
6 | Sleep Deprivation Leads to Depression
There is some truth in the old saying, “Getting up on the right side of the bed.” It has nothing to do with which side of the bed you roll out of, but sleeping can lead to good moods. And really, it makes sense. If you sleep well, you wake up feeling rested. Being rested helps your energy levels soar. When your energy is up, life’s little challenges won’t annoy you as much. When you’re not annoyed, you’re not as angry. If you’re not angry, you’re happy.
But depression impacts your physical health as much as your mental health. And many of them are already weakened by poor sleep. Research has shown that depression can cause unhealthy weight gain and increases the risk for heart disease, chronic pain, and inflammation.
And inflammation is a BIG DEAL.
7 | Quality Sleep Reduces Inflammation
localized inflammation, which is often acute inflammation, is a natural healing process that your body initiates in response to injury or infection. It’s the type of inflammation that shows up as a fever in response to a bacterial infection, for instance, and is not the type of inflammation I’m discussing in this article.
On the other hand, systemic inflammation typically results from patterns of poor diet, lack of exercise, autoimmunity, and various other factors. This is a persistent, silent type of inflammation that, in many cases, can lead to ill health in the form of chronic disease and even premature death!
Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in your body. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders known as inflammatory bowel disease.
One study observed that sleep-deprived people with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse as patients who slept well. Researchers are even recommending sleep evaluation to help predict outcomes in individuals with long-term inflammatory issues.
8 | Poor Sleep Increases Unhealthy Aging
In a healthy biological environment, your body’s vast cellular “forest” of nearly 100 trillion cells is almost always on “fire,” so to speak. Cells that have reached the end of their life cycle are constantly being purged and eliminated in order to make way for new cells that pick up the baton where they left off. If a cell is no longer able to do its job, it will either repair itself or commit “suicide” via a process known as apoptosis. This is a streamlined process that keeps everything in the body balanced and running smoothly.
Because cells are the building blocks behind every organ and system in the body, it’s important that all of them meet the highest quality standards. Defective cells put the entire system at risk, and thus have to be eliminated. We call this process cellular regeneration. It functions a lot like the quality control unit at a manufacturing plant, where only the best components make it off the assembly line and into the final product, while everything else ends up in the scrap heap.
You may have noticed the first signs of a lack of sleep on your skin – puffy, red eyes. Over time, this leads to fine lines, wrinkles, sallow skin, and dark circles under your eyes. In order to keep your body healthy, you need human growth hormone – which the body produces in abundance when you are young. When you sleep your body repairs itself, strengthens your bones, and thickens your skin. Be kind to your skin and get adequate rest on a regular basis.
9 | Quality Sleep Helps You Live Longer
This is a big one. People who get quality sleep live longer. In the “Whitehall II Study,” British researchers discovered less than five hours of sleep doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease – which is the number one cause of death worldwide.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, sleep is a busy time for your body. During sleep, various processes are at work that repair everything from your cardiovascular system to your brain functionality. It’s because of this that getting enough sleep can improve your overall health, which may help to boost your longevity.
The point of sleep is not just to help you feel more refreshed, but to allow the cells in your muscles, organs, and brain to repair and renew each night. Sleep also helps regulate your metabolism and how your body releases hormones. When these processes are out of order due to lack of sleep, it can increase your risk of health problems.
10 | Quality Sleep Improves Physical Performance
Finally, quality sleep can help improve your physical and athletic performance. Research shows that those who have been exercising and sleeping regularly for decades can be as healthy as those who are much younger. In fact, a recent study found that septuagenarians (people in their 70s) who had been exercising regularly had muscle health that was indistinguishable from the muscles of people in their 20s.
Researchers have studied the effects of sleep deprivation on basketball players, and guess what they found? When the players didn’t sleep well, their performance skills decreased. Sleep affects all types of exercise performance. Under-the-covers recovery helps with hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and muscle recovery. Plus, depriving yourself of sleep can have a negative impact on strength and power.
In order to remain as healthy as possible, it’s important that we work every day to keep our bodies and minds strong and healthy. When it comes to physical fitness, the proper amount of sleep can help you make those gains and reach those fitness milestones that have been eluding you.
Good sleep is one of the pillars of good health. When you don’t get enough, your entire body suffers. Getting adequate rest helps prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration. Not only does sleep help prevent these issues, but it can actually increase your mental, physical, and emotional health.
So, the next time you’re thinking about pulling an all-nighter or find yourself scrolling through your phone late into the night, remember:
Better Sleep = Better You
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