Science: Explaining the Importance of Sleep

healthy sleeping

Nowadays, more than in the past years, scientific researches and studies are emphasizing the importance of a good night sleep. Immunity system is the first to misbalance when one lacks sleep, and along with it, other medical conditions and health problems are likely to appear and threaten the entire body and body’s functions. Below are some researchers and studies that remind us about the importance of sleeping, and explains how sleep deficiency is linked to health problems.

Sleep is not simply the resting period, as many would assume.
I would say the importance of sleep is definitely underestimated by the general public. Some people may say all they need is five hours of sleep and if they’re getting that they’re good to go, but what they’re not realizing is that they’re probably not functioning at their fullest potential”, said Dr. Sandhya Kumar, assistant professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and medical director of the Sleep Center, and the author of the study called Proper Sleep Is a Key Contributor to Health and Well-Being.

Kumar explains what many tend to forget – the brain and the body don’t shut down during sleep; important tasks related to mental and physical health are performed while we are asleep. Producing hormones that repair cells and fight off the illnesses is one of those important tasks our body and brain do while we are in a deep sleep. Sleep deficiency and irregular sleep contribute to poor performing, trouble in communication and problem-solving, depression, increase in the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and cognitive difficulties.

“Most of us, after adolescence, really need seven or eight hours of sleep, and on a regular basis”, she said. The quantity and quality is not the same – „there are people who, for example, say that they can drink coffee and don’t have trouble sleeping, but that’s not true“, she points out, „they may not have trouble falling asleep but the quality of their sleep is not what they need. They don’t have the deep sleep that is the most restful, or they have trouble waking up.”

If nothing helps, the next step would be to visit a doctor, or a sleep specialist, because, although sleep medications can help in the short term, it is important to find the cause of the problem. More than a few nights of sleeping problems should not be ignored, Kumar reminds.

Sleeping for either six hours or less, or 10 hours or more will affect chronic diseases, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and obesity in adults age 45 and older, explains one study published in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Sleeping longer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sleeping well. It is important to understand that both the quality and quantity of sleep impact your health. A healthy, balanced lifestyle is not limited to diet and fitness; when and how your sleep is just as important as what you eat or how you exercise“, researchers explain.

Too little sleep or too much sleep cause health problems, according to study which involved 54,000 participants from 14 states. One third of the participants (31 percent) were identified as short sleepers (sleeping six hours or less), more than 64 percent were optimal sleepers and only 4 percent were long sleepers.

“Some of the relationships between unhealthy sleep durations and chronic diseases were partially explained by frequent mental distress and obesity. This suggests that physicians should consider monitoring mental health and body weight, in addition to sleep health for patients with chronic diseases”, said study co-author Janet B. Croft, a senior chronic disease epidemiologist.

The study showed that short sleepers reported a higher prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and mental distress, while the same was reported by long sleepers. Those who suffer from these conditions are advised to speak with a sleep physician who can assess their sleep patterns.

Teenagers and adolescents take a good night sleep for granted. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research revealed that acute illnesses such as cold, flu, and gastroenteritis were common among the teens that sleep less at night.

„Poor sleep is linked to increased cardiovascular disease, to high cholesterol, to obesity, to depression, etc., but for a teenager, staying healthy for the dance next week, or the game on Thursday, may be more important. This message from this study is clear: Sleep more, and more regularly, get sick less“, said Kathryn Orzech, of the Bradley Hospital Sleep Research Laboratory. If your kids are teenagers, make sure you explain them the importance of a healthy sleep.

Having a good going-to-bed routine and waking up around the same time is good for healthier weight. Previous researches found out that lack of sleep influence one’s weight and can play a significant role in gaining weight as well, but from this research we have new information on the importance of bed routine. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, included more than 300 women whose sleep patterns were tracked and monitored, and revealed that consistency of bedtimes and wake up time influence body fat.

Bruce Bailey, an exercise science professor, found that quality of sleep is important for body composition, and that getting less than 6.5 or more than 8.5 hours of sleep per night is contributing to higher body fat, concluding that those who slept between 8 and 8.5 hours per night had the lowest body fat.

“We have these internal clocks and throwing them off and not allowing them to get into a pattern does have an impact on our physiology. Sleep is often a casualty of trying to do more and be better and it is often sacrificed, especially by college students, who kind of wear it as a badge of honor”, Bailey explained.

Sleep deficiency impacts physical activities, numerous studies confirmed. When one is lacking sleep, hormones that are related to food consumption are not balanced, and due to it, are contributing to the body fat.

To prepare yourself for a good night sleep, keep the temperature in the room cool, use bed only for sleeping and exercise regularly, science suggests.

Image by 123RF Photo Stock