Research increasingly shows that lack of sleep can have an impact on your health, but do we really think about what goes on in our body while we sleep,? More importantly, what is the result if we don’t sleep properly?
Well, you may be getting Beast sleep! The sort of sleep that is actually doing you harm.
There is always something different popping up about exactly how much sleep a person needs to stay healthy, but generally, if you get less than 7 hours good sleep every night it will have an impact. The reality is, a lack of sleep can do serious harm to your health.
Let’s start by understanding why we sleep and what happens when we do.
Sleep is vital for keeping our minds and bodies in good working order. While you sleep your body and brain work to repair and restore, as well as helping development and growth in younger people. So if you don’t get enough sleep, then you reduce your ability to do these things. This can have a big impact both in the short and long term on your mental and physical wellbeing. We’re not talking about the odd now and again, after all everyone has the odd night where they don’t sleep well for some reason. But if you have regular or sustained periods of time without proper sleep, it will have an impact.
While you sleep your brain forms new pathways, helping you to learn and create memories from what you’ve already been doing. It also flushes toxins away that build up during the day, clearing the path for a new day and additional learning.
For many years, it was thought that whilst there were obvious immediate issues with lack of sleep like, the ability to make decisions and changes in moods and emotions etc. there was no real physical damage to the brain. However, recent studies are now suggesting that not only is physical damage done, but in some cases it is permanent and can’t be reversed. A study by Dr Maiken Nedergard at the University of Rochester Medical Centre links the lack of sleep to Alzheimers disease. The Glymphatic system drains a toxic protein called Beta-amyloid away from the brain. This protein is renowned for accumulating in the brain of Alzheimers patients. In Dr. Nederaard’s study, sleep deprivation resulted in an increase of this toxic protein in the brain.
A second study by Jing Zhang at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia found that a particular set of neurons in the brain are damaged by lack of sleep. Again, the damage is linked to a build-up of proteins during the day that cannot be effectively dealt with if a person does not get enough sleep and allow the brain to clear these proteins out.
Like the brain, while you sleep, your body takes the opportunity to heal and repair. Repairs to your heart, blood vessels and various hormones occur while sleeping. An inability to do this effectively can result in the increased risk of more serious long term health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or stroke.
Imbalances in your hormones can result in weight gain, which in turn increases the risk of those illnesses above. Sleep helps maintain and control the hormones that impact hunger. It also controls how your body reacts to insulin and so controls your blood sugar levels. Sleep deficiency can result in higher blood sugar levels which can increase the risk of diabetes.
In addition, in children and teenagers, deep sleep triggers the hormones that promote growth and boost muscle mass.
Finally, your immune system needs sleep to help defend you against everyday ailments and infections. Less sleep could mean more everyday illness. Did you know that the loss of an hour or two of sleep a night, can, after several nights, affect your ability to functions as if you haven’t slept for a day or two?
This is just a snapshot of the impact of sleep deprivation. There is still a lot unknown, but what we do know tells us that if we want to stay healthy, we have to make sure we get proper sleep.
Are you getting your ‘Beauty sleep’ and giving your mind and body time to repair or are you suffering from ‘Beast Sleep’?