- The lack of sleep in America is contributing to chronic diseases
- Fatigue-related automobile crashes results in about 1,550 deaths per year
- Your body requires sleep to keep you beautiful and slim by repairing your skin, muscles and balancing hormones.
People aren’t getting enough sleep. It may seem like a silly topic or stating the obvious, but the fact is a lack of sleep is dangerous. It seems to be a badge of honor to get little-to-no sleep these days. In fact, physicians in training get very little sleep. But the airline industry mandates an airline pilot can only fly so many hours in a 24-hour period. But hospitals believe it’s okay for a sleep-deprived doctor to cut you open. Americans are so sleep deprived that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken up the cause to improve the state of our slumber. Perhaps you’ve heard commercials on the radio urging people to not drive drowsy. You may not think much of getting behind the wheel when you’re tired, but it could have devastating results. Lack of sleep has contributed to some of the greatest disasters of this generation such as the Exxon Valdez spill and Chernobyl. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S., especially for those under the age of 25. Not as high as alcohol-related fatalities of over 10,000, but enough to start causing serious concern for roadway safety.
Insufficient sleep is also associated with many chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and obesity. The immune system requires sleep in order to work effectively, frequent colds and illness can also be a sign of sleep deprivation. So many disease states and health conditions can be traced back to a lack of sleep because of the processes that occur in your body while you’re sleeping. We tend to think everything happens in our bodies while we’re awake. This isn’t true. You don’t dream while you’re awake (assuming nothing else is wrong). There are some things the body can only take care of once you’ve moved into deep sleep.
The deepest part of sleep is called rapid eye movement (REM), there are three-to-four stages before you reach that point. Think of sleep as the night crew that comes in to clean up after everyone has gone home. Different people need varying amounts of sleep depending on age and life style. On average between 8-10 hours is recommended. During this time the body sets out repairing muscle, consolidating memories, and releases hormones that regulate growth and appetite. Vital functions that are only necessary during the day shut down to allow these processes to work. For example, muscles are “paralyzed” and movement is restricted during the repair process. If you’re doing regular strength training, sleep is so important. The repairing of muscle is actually what increases your strength. The act of lifting weights stresses and “tears” muscle. At night the body says to itself it has to make the muscle stronger to endure whatever is going on during the day. That is where protein comes into play as the main tool to repair and build muscle. Sleep regulates your body’s use (or non-use) of fat. If you’re not taking the time to rest your body can’t reset itself and you may find that you’re always hungry or just always wanting to snack. During slumber is when the body can take time to decide what to do with your fat stores. If you’re always on the go and not get any sleep your fat stores are the last thing your body addresses. There are higher order functions the body needs to deal with when it finally gets to sleep. Fat is very low on the list of priorities. Additionally, when you don’t sleep you don’t produce as much leptin (signals when you’re full) and you produce more ghrelin (signals you to eat), leading in the long term to obesity.
It’s a vicious cycle. Obesity can lead to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea where a person stops breathing and wakes up constantly throughout the night disrupting the processes every time. The individual may not even be aware they are waking up 100 times a night. They just know they’re exhausted. Extreme cases of sleep apnea require the sufferer to wear a mask while they sleep to ensure they are continuously breathing.
Like most sayings “get your beauty rest” is based in fact. The restorative function of sleep isn’t just about feeling good in the morning. Sleep can keep you looking and feeling young, healthy and wise. If you’re having trouble sleeping research a good bedtime routine. Time to get off the hamster wheel. If you’re wondering how much sleep you should get, take a look at this infographic from the National Sleep Foundation. Some basics are getting enough exercise and eating a balanced diet. Now go to bed!
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