Research has shown that getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night is what we need for optimal health and wellness.
New discoveries in science are beginning to reveal that if we don’t get enough sleep (most common problem), or if we get too much, we are at greater risk of weight gain, lowered immune function, memory issues, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.
In fact, according to a study carried out by Ron Kessler and his team at Harvard Medical School, sleep quality could be the new frontier in terms of addressing health and wellness, as sleep disorders trump back and neck problems, depression, and fatigue as causes of absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace.
Research shows two-thirds of Americans suffer sleep issues, most suffering in silence. It’s the silent epidemic that is currently under high investigation in many scientific circles.
In this article we look at how sleep influences our health and wellness. And in our next article we will provide 10 practical steps you can take to improve your sleep quality.
Different Stages of Sleep
What does actually happen during your time of shut eye?
Quiet (non-REM) sleep – shutting your eyes slows down your alpha wave patterns into a calmer, more relaxed state. And your thinking and the body slow down but you still move about and get comfy.
Next you drop off as if someone just flipped the switch (controlled by brain centers and hormones) into:
REM sleep – this is also known as rapid eye movement/ dreaming sleep. REM is the deeper stage of sleep that helps restore and regenerate physical and mental function.
During each night, you will move in and out of the two stages of sleep, which is controlled by the brain, particularly the brainstem and hypothalamus, and via neurotransmitters.
We all have an in-built internal clock called our circadian rhythm. It’s much like light and dark/ day and night.
Our brain structures and neurotransmitters regulate our biological patterns, including sleep. These natural patterns make most of us sleepier at night and awake during the day.
Sleep Problems and your Health
You may feel that being tired every day is just a normal part of life. But, if you suffer any type of health problems, it could in fact be sleep quality causing the issues.
A recent study has shown sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea increase your risk of stroke and also hinder recovery after stroke.
According to Diabetes Care, persistent insomnia leads to increased risk of weight gain, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Persistent insomnia is characterized by trouble falling to sleep, restless sleep, or waking up during the night.
A review article in Obesity confirms that risk of weight gain and obesity is affected by lack of sleep due to disruption of hormones that regulate hunger and appetite.
Multiple studies have linked sleep deprivation with numerous risk factors associated with heart disease. And right now it’s a very active area of research.
And overall researchers have determined that if you lack sleep you will enjoy life less, be far less productive, be more susceptible to illnesses and accidents at home, on the job, and on the road. And of course, you are at increased risk of more serious health issues.
Resources for Sleep