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Up to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems.

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Why Is Sleep Important?

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life.

During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

Sleep expert Matthew Walker breaks down the many effects of sleep deprivation on your brain and body. Following is the transcript of the video: Matthew Walker: My name is Matthew Walker, I am a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and I am the author of the book "Why We Sleep."

Studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

how sleep deprivation impact your health

“The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life” 
-  Matthew Walker,
professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley

Here are nine ways sleep deprivation impacts your health:

1: Sleep deprivation makes you tired and forgetful.

Especially students know what it’s like pulling an all-nighter cramming for an exam. Even though this tactic might seem smart, choosing to sleep instead would be much smarter. Sleep deprivation actually prevents your brain from making new memories.

Studies show that after being awake all night, or only getting a few hours of sleep, you have a much harder time remembering newly acquired information, and the facts you knew at 2.A.M. will be gone when morning comes.

2: Sleep deprivation will impact your ability to concentrate.

How long can we stay awake before we see declines in brain function? The answer to this seems to be about 16 hours. After being awake for 19 hours your mental capacity is so impaired that you would be as sufficient as someone who was legally drunk behind the wheel of a car. People falling asleep at the wheel is a huge problem.

The most common cause of car crashes in the United States is in fact drivers suffering a momentary lapse in concentration, which is called microsleep.

For a few seconds, your brain becomes blind and other senses also drop out. You might not even notice that you’re swerving before you hit the curb or an oncoming car. On top of this we often underestimate our degree of performance disability. This is why someone who’s had a couple of drinks still might drive home afterward. Which obviously can cause huge accidents.

3: Sleep deprivation makes you emotionally irrational.

Studies show that after less than 6 hours of sleep we will produce inappropriate emotional reactions, but we also fail to put events into a broader context.

When you have a good night sleep the emotional center in the brain, the amygdala, and the brain region for reasoning and logical thinking, the prefrontal cortex, rebuild a strong connection that has been weakened through the course of the day.

If you’re sleep deprived this connection won’t be rebuilt and you will experience more overwhelming emotionality because your reasoning skills are impaired.

4: Sleep deprivation is strongly correlated with depression.

Over time, the lack of sleep and sleep disorders, like insomnia, can contribute to the symptoms of depression. People diagnosed with insomnia are five times as likely to develop depression as those without it. In fact, insomnia is often one of the first symptoms of depression.

Insomnia and depression actually seem to feed on each other. Sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep. On the positive side, treating sleep problems can help depression and its symptoms, and vice versa.

5: Sleep loss increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

The less you sleep the more likely you are to eat. Your body becomes unable to manage calories effectively, especially the concentration of sugar in the blood. In your body there are two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which balances your experience of hunger. Leptin signals a sense of feeling full while ghrelin triggers a strong sensation of hunger.

When you’re sleep deprived your body produce more ghrelin. This leads to a stronger and more frequent feeling of hunger, which leads to a bigger calorie intake, resulting in overeating and obesity. When you eat, glucose will be realised into your blood stream.

In a healthy individual the hormone insulin will trigger the cells of your body to absorb glucose from the bloodstream should it increase, as happens after eating a meal.

When you’re sleep deprived the body becomes less responsive to insulin, and a bigger amount of blood sugar will circulate in your blood stream. If this response is maintained over a longer period of time you will develop type 2 diabetes.

6: Sleep deprivation is strongly correlated with Alzheimer’s decease.

Some people, even world leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan claimed to sleep only 4 to 5 hours a night. This statement might have been to paint a heroic picture of themselves, but sadly they both suffered Alzheimer’s decease later in life.

I can’t claim that the only reason they suffered this Alzheimer’s was due to sleep deprivation, but there is a clear indication that sleep deprivation is correlated with the development of Alzheimer’s decease.

When you are sleep deprived there’s an increased development of a toxic protein in the brain called beta-amyloid, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

When you’re in deep sleep at night there’s a sewage system in the brain that cleans out this poisonous protein, so if you’re not getting enough sleep every night more of this Alzheimer-associated protein will build up in your brain. The more protein you build up the greater the risk of you developing dementia in later life.

7: Sleep deprivation affects your reproductive system.

Studies show that men who are sleeping 5–6 hours a night have the same testosterone level of someone ten to fifteen years their senior.

Women that routinely sleep less than six hours have a 20% drop in hormones critical to the female reproductive system. A study also showed that women working night shifts had a 33% higher rate of abnormal menstrual cycles.

Another study showed that people who got 5 hours of sleep were considered less attractive than those who had gotten 8 hours of sleep. So “beauty sleep” is actually a thing!

8: Sleep deprivation impacts your immune system.

Sleep is a worrier, fighting against infections and sickness. When you’re sleep deprived you have a bigger risk of developing colds, influenza and pneumonia.

After just one night of 5 to 6 hours of sleep there is also a 70% reduction in critical anti-cancer fighting immune cells called natural killer cells. So short sleep duration predicts your risk for developing numerous forms of cancer, like cancer of the breast, cancer of the bowel and cancer of the prostate.

9: Sleep deprivation affects your cardiovascular system.

During deep sleep at night you receive a wonderful and effective form of blood pressure medication: your heart rate drops, and your blood pressure goes down.

If you’re not getting sufficient sleep, you’re not getting that reboot of the cardiovascular system. If you’re getting 6 or fewer hours of sleep, you have a 200% increased risk of having a fatal heart attack or a stroke in your lifetime.

HOW MUCH SLEEP DO YOU actually NEED?

You are actually doing yourself a disservice by sacrificing sleep because, without it, your brain becomes foggy, your judgment poor, and your fine motor skills hindered.

During sleep, your brain is busy processing information from the day and forming memories. Sleep deprivation does, in fact, impair your ability to learn and retain new information.

Behavioral studies have shown the critical role sleep plays as a powerful learning- and memory aid. Both before learning, to prepare your brain for making new memories, and after learning, to cement those memories and prevent forgetting.

These are the recommended sleep durations per age from sleepfoundation.org

Sleep Duration Recommendations

10 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

TIP 1. Set a bedtime alarm and stick to a consistent sleep routine.

Your body’s internal clock, a.k.a. your circadian rhythm, plays a key role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle. This clock tells your body when it’s time to wake up in the morning and when to start unwinding at the end of the day.

It’s impacted by melatonin, which takes its cues from the amount of light present in your environment. This is why its very effective turn down the lights and have an hour of wind down time before bedtime.

Sleep Deprivaion 17.jpg

Make a bedtime ritual and go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Set an alarm clock 60 min before bedtime.

Turn down the lights, take a warm bath or try to calm down by reading a book or listening to relaxing music or nature sounds. A set sleep routine will train the brain you to fall asleep and wake up more easily. Do this also on the weekends if possible.

Tip 2. Go outside first thing in the morning.

Get at least 30–60 minutes of natural daylight exposure first thing in the morning. Light is the strongest stimulus for regulating a person’s sleep-wake schedule.

The suprachiasmatic nucleus or nuclei (SCN) is a tiny region of the brain in the hypothalamus, situated directly above the optic chiasm. It is responsible for controlling circadian rhythms. The neuronal and hormonal activities it generates regulate many different body functions in a 24-hour cycle, using around 20,000 neurons.

It doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy or sunshine, the key is to trick the brain into a new morning routine. Don’t put shades on because it will diminish the light reset function in your body clock.

TIP 3. Don't drink Coffee or caffeine after 1 PM.

Caffeine is what we call a psychoactive stimulant. For some people, a single cup of coffee in the morning means a sleepless night.

If you give someone a standard dose of one cup of coffee in the evening, 200 milligrams of caffeine, the amount of deep sleep that they have is reduced by 20%.

You would normally have to age and individual by 10 or 15 years to drop your deep sleep quality by 20%.

Sleep Deprivaion 16.jpg

Caffeine has a half-life of about six or seven hours and half-life simply means the amount of time it takes for a 50% of the drug still be in your system or 50% of it to be cleared. Caffeine has a quarter-life of about 12 hours.

So if you have a cup of coffee at noon, it's the equivalent of getting into bed at midnight. And just before you turn out the lights, you sip a quarter of a cup of Starbucks and you hope for a good night of sleep.

TIP 4. Be physically active. Get your sweat on!

Regular aerobic exercise like walking, running, or swimming provides three important sleep benefits: you'll fall asleep faster, attain a higher percentage of restorative deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night.

Sleep Deprivaion 18.jpg

By exercising in the morning, you will get the juices flowing by releasing endorphins into your blood and get the muscles pumping. By jump-starting your body, you tell it that the new day has started.

Your cortisol levels will also rise and help you stay alert, energized and awake. If you go for a jog outside, you also will be exposed to daylight!

Working out is generally a good remedy for sleeping problems because by wearing out your body in the day you’ll get more tired and sleepy in the evening.

TIP 5. Limit daytime naps after 3 PM.

Prolonged napping can disrupt your natural sleep cycle and prevent you from feeling tired enough to fall asleep.

Tip 6. Eat Healthy and at regular times

Food is just as powerful a trigger as light is. Avoid large meals and beverages at late night hours. Recent studies have shown that your eating schedule is correlated with how your body clock works.

According to a study published in May 2017, people who don’t get enough sleep eat, on average, 385 kcal more than usual with significantly less protein and more fat. These individuals also experienced a heightened motivation to seek food for reward.

So, try to eat at regular local times and not when your body craves food.

Tip 7. Myth busted - Drop the Nightcap

Alcohol is probably the most misunderstood sleep aid or sleep drug. Alcohol is a class of drugs that we call the sedatives. And sedation is not sleep. Because what alcohol is simply doing is masking a problem that you're not dealing with.

Sleep Deprivaion 15.jpg

Alcohol will litter your sleep with many more awakenings throughout the night, making it more fragmented.

The final part of alcohol is that it's one of the best chemicals that we know for suppressing REM sleep. So when you drink alcohol, what you're doing is sedating your cortex.

You're just knocking yourself out. And that's why you think of that you fall asleep faster.

tip 8. Clean your bedroom and turn of the blue light devices.

Remove the television, telephone, and any other devices that radiate blue light from the bedroom. Although it is environmentally friendly, blue light can affect your sleep and potentially cause sleep diseases.

Try to avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bedtime. Use night mode on your phone or computer.

Not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths, which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood, seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.

Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.

Keep you bedroom clean, and try to leave your worries at the bedroom door. An ideal environment is quiet, dark, and relatively cool, with a comfortable bed and minimal clutter.

Sleep Deprivaion 22.jpg

tip 9. Don't lie in bed awake. Use the bed only for sleep and sex.

If you're still awake after about 20 minutes in bed, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. Otherwise, you'll set yourself up for tossing and turning. The mind will then remember the bedroom as a place where you find it hard to sleep.

TIP 10. Try to avoid taking sleeping pills.

If you are using anything to help you sleep, I think you have to ask yourself, are you just really treating an open wound and not really actually trying to stitch it up?

If you do take a prescription sleep medicine, work with your doctor to use it effectively and for as short a time as possible.

 

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DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH keeping a CONSISTENT SLEEP ROUTINE?

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What is Jet Lag?

Jet lag, also known as time zone change syndrome or desynchronosis, occurs when people travel rapidly across time zones or when their sleep is disrupted, for example, because of shift work. It is a physiological condition that results from a disruption in the body's circadian rhythms, also known as the body clock.

Your circadian rhythm is an ingrained biological clock that regulates periods of sleep and wakefulness. The circadian rhythm also influences other biological factors such as body temperature, times for eating, and the regulation of certain hormones. These functions are calibrated by a group of cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in the hypothalamus.

The SCN is connected to the optic nerves and senses changes in daylight that help it regulate certain functions of the body. It uses the presence (or lack) of daylight as it's primary measurement in balancing these functions. It tells us that when there is daylight, that it's time to be awake, and when it is dark, it's time to be asleep. Your circadian rhythm is set to match the environment in which you live in.

When traveling long distances over short periods of time, your circadian rhythm is slow to adjust to the new cycles of daylight and darkness. Your body wants to sleep when it's night back home, and to be awake when it's daytime back home. Jet lag manifests when your internal clock is out of sync with your current location's external clock.

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