As we grow older, our lives become more and more infested with responsibility and stress, making sleep the holy remedy for maintaining health. Sleep is a big part of being healthy, in fact it has been said that exercise, nutrition, and sleep are the three main components of health. Yet it seems that adults in the U.S. are sleeping less and less with their growing responsibilities and daily schedules. It is important however, to acknowledge that sleep is an essential part of mental, physical, and social health.
The recommended hours of sleep vary from children to adolescents to adults to seniors. As children we require a lot of sleep since it is a major part of development, a significant level of body mass is being gained everytime children sleep. Teenagers are also developing and require more sleep than adults, but by this point the required hours of sleep begin to decrease.
As adults, we are recommended to sleep 7-9 hours every night and to have a set sleeping schedule. From adulthood on, it becomes far more difficult to get sufficient quality sleep, we tend to sleep lighter and sleep becomes less restful. This is usually due to high stress levels and the repercussions that come from eating convenience meals often. But it is absolutely necessary to get at least 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep as an adult, since there are key body functions that are only possible through quality sleep.
- Sleeping enough not only helps you lower stress and have better memory, but it is also involved in weight loss and in controlling appetite. It has been found that adults who sleep under 4 hours and over 9 hours have an imbalance in the generation of two hormones that control appetite, ghrelin and leptin. There is a decrease in leptin levels and and an increase in ghrelin levels. Leptin is a hormone made in by adipose (fat) cells in proportion to fat levels, it has an inhibiting effect of appetite. Ghrelin on the other hand stimulates appetite, it is made by cell lining your stomach in response it being empty. In this manner sleep has a major role in preventing obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular problems, as the are directly related to weight gain and sleep levels.
- It has also been found that your body does significant immune work during your sleep hours. Research shows that certain cytokines (specialized proteins) are released during sleep by the immune system that has an effect on your ability to fight infections and in preventing inflammation. This in term has an effect in preventing cancer and circulatory problems like heart disease and strokes. Inflammation plays a major role in atherosclerosis, which is the process in which plaques that block blood flow form. It also has an effect on the development of cancer, since the inflammation pathway releases other cytokines within the tumor that end up with the tumor being vascularized (meaning there is now blood supply). Sleeping the right amount will not only have an effect in your everyday health, but in your long-term health as well.
- There is great important in the quality of sleep, not just quantity. Research shows that people that sleep enough but aren’t able to achieve deep sleep perform lower in everyday tasks and have more trouble with memory. This becomes more difficult as we grow older since the stress of everydays tasks and responsibility can make us into lighter sleepers. In fact, the stress response in associated with the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine is our brains, these are two neurotransmitters associated with alertness. Epinephrine is basically adrenaline, it dilates the blood vessels delivering higher quantities of blood contents throughout the body, including epinephrine itself. Norepinephrine is similar in effects, but the presence of this chemical in your brain can lead you to be very alert, and can even lead to anxiety.
- When you go to sleep by 10pm there is a four hour window from 10pm to 2am in which your body focuses on physical repair. During this time anabolic hormones such as Human Growth Hormone are released to fix any damage and maintain the body in peak condition.
- From 2am to 6am is recognized as the time in which the body does psychological repair. During this time the mind sorts itself out and repairs itself for the challenges of the next day.
- Not getting enough sleep is associated with higher rates of breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers, according to the AASM’s sleep statement. Overnight shift workers may take the brunt of this burden. The good news is that both men and women who slept seven or more hours per night had the best mortality rates in the group.
- Adequate sleep will increase sex hormone levels by as much as 10 to 15 percent. This leads to increased energy and vigour as well as decreased levels of depression and feelings of despair.
- Maintaining a healthy weight is a byproduct of adequate sleep, weight gain is associated with lack of sleep. People who sleep 8 hours every night have a healthier body mass index and a lower amount of bodyfat and higher level of lean body mass. Sometimes a person who is eating well and exercising consistently cannot figure out why their body won’t shed extra fat, this is one of the main culprits.
- Consistently getting enough sleep makes you age beautifully, whereas those with too little sleep tend to develop more fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, and marked laxity, or looseness of the skin. The term beauty sleep wasn’t coined for nothing, the body is simply more beautiful when it can regularly repair itself fully.
- You don’t get sick nearly as easily. Research shows that there is a reciprocal relationship between sleep and the immune system, less sleep means a weaker immune system, whereas getting adequate sleep ensures your ability to fight off illness and infection is robust.
To achieve deep sleep, especially as a busy adult, there are a few tips you can follow that will better your sleep quality. One of which consists of having a bedtime and a wakeup time. Going to sleep and waking up around the same times everyday helps you establish a sleeping cycle in which your body knows that it is time to rest. Make your room darker and quieter and eat breakfast somewhere sunny. This helps the effects of melatonin in your brain.
Melatonin is a hormone in the brain that helps regulate sleep cycles by distinguishing between night and day. Making sure that it is dark when your sleep, and light when you wake up helps you ensure that your body is responding correctly to your environment in terms of sleep.
A good tips for reducing anxiety and stress at night is to switch your thinking into something else, it also helps to slow down your thinking. Reading before going to bed is a good way to achieve this, you are more likely to engage in the content of the reading and to go to sleeping thinking about it instead of your problems, it also helps slow your thinking preparing it for rest.