Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. In fact, it is just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. The way you feel while you're awake depends in part on what happens while you're sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. It’s often suggested that we’re now sleeping significantly less than people did in the past, and the quality of our sleep has deteriorated too. We really do need to respect the importance of a good night's sleep.
1. GOOD SLEEPERS TEND TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Research identifying every study between 1966 and 2007 in The United States National Library of Medicine (the world's largest biomedical library) using the search “sleep” and (“duration” or “hour” or “hours”) and (“obesity” or “weight”), it was found that people with short sleep duration (less than 5 hours) 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 another significant review of studies, children and adults with short sleep duration were found to be 89% and 55% more likely to become obese, respectively.
Additionally, the effect of sleep on weight gain is believed to be mediated by numerous factors including hormones and a lower motivation to exercise. If you are trying to lose weight, getting quality sleep is absolutely crucial.
2. POOR SLEEPERS TEND TO EAT MORE
Countless studies demonstrate how sleep deprived people have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. Sleep deprivation appears to disrupt the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation.
This includes higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite.
3. GOOD SLEEP CAN IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY
Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function including cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. All of these are negatively can be affected by sleep deprivation.
A study on medical interns working in a hospital provides a useful example. Interns on a “traditional schedule” made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed more sleep. Another interesting study has found short sleep patterns can negatively impact some aspects of brain function to a similar degree as alcohol intoxication.
On the other hand, good sleep has been proven to improve problem solving skills and enhance memory performance in both children and adults.
4. GOOD SLEEP CAN ENHANCE ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Sleep has been shown to significantly enhance athletic performance. In a study on basketball players, longer sleep was shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and even mental wellbeing.
Less sleep duration has also been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation especially in elderly women. A study of over 2,800 women found that poor sleep was linked to slower walking, lower grip strength, and greater difficulty performing independent activities.
5. POOR SLEEPERS HAVE A GREATER RISK OF HEART DISEASE
We know that sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many risk factors. These are the factors believed to contribute to chronic diseases, including heart disease.
A systematic review of studies between 1966 - 2009 found that short sleepers are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night.
6. POOR SLEEP IS STRONGLY LINKED TO DEPRESSION
Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. It has been estimated that 90% of patients with depression complain about sleep quality.
Poor sleep is even associated with increased risk of death by suicide. Those with sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without.
7. GOOD SLEEP CAN IMPROVE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function. One large study monitored the development of the common cold and found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more. If you often get colds, ensuring that you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night could be very helpful.
8. POOR SLEEP IS LINKED TO INCREASED INFLAMMATION
Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in the 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 diseases.
One study observed that sleep deprived patients 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 sufferers of long-term inflammatory issues.
9. POOR SLEEP AFFECTS EMOTIONS AND SOCIAL INTERACTIONS
Sleep loss reduces our ability to interact socially. Several studies confirmed this using emotional facial recognition tests. One study found that people who had not slept had a reduced ability to recognise expressions of anger and happiness. Researchers believe that poor sleep affects our ability to recognise important social cues and process emotional information.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health. You simply cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep.
Rhiannon is also sharing her nutritional knowledge and expertise in the form of her first book - Re-Nourish, to be released in December 2017. Re-Nourish is available to pre-order on Amazon and released 28 December 2017.
Registered with the Association for Nutrition (AFN), Rhiannon has obtained first class Bachelor (BSc) and Master’s (MSc) degrees in Nutrition as well as Diplomas in Nutritional Interventions and Excellence in Practitioner Skills for Eating Disorders. Her qualified approach to nutrition and total dedication to her clients’ needs has seen Rhiannon work with some of the world’s most influential people.