Here in Wilmington there is a pretty sweet monthly event called the “Whole Health Forum” that I’ve started going to. Each month there are three health professionals who come present and answer questions about topics they are experts in. The subject matter and perspective varies a lot and I love that they see health as more than just absence of disease, the speakers generally promote human thriving not just human survival. As someone with a family history of heart attacks and dementia, I’m all about finding ways to minimize those risks.
Admittedly, there have been some speakers that have, umm, made the skeptic in me a little uncomfortable. I am pretty open to non-traditional things but I do prefer there be some evidence or plausible hypothesis behind what is being presented and that hasn’t always been the case. But, even those presentations have sparked individual research and critical thinking, which means it was still valuable.
So, last week one of the presentations really stuck with me, in part, because of how much research and evidence was presented. Like most things health related, it really wasn’t much of a surprise how important it is but to see the benefits laid out for me was impressive. We all know the most important health practices… eat a whole foods plant-based diet, drink water, reasonable caloric intake, moderate regular exercise and, the subject of this presentation, get good sleep.
Until the last six months or so sleep has been a struggle for me. I’ve been putting forth a lot of effort recently to get to bed at a reasonable time (around 10pm) and get about 7-8 hours of good sleep each night. For me, that means limiting coffee to two cups before noon and minimizing screen time after about 9pm. I know sleep is important but I guess I never really thought about the long-term effects of getting sub-par sleep, I always tried to get good sleep for short term benefits. But, after this presentation I am now more motivated than ever to get some solid zzz’s.
So, what does good sleep look like? It’s pretty simple:
– For someone in my age group sleep 7-9 hours
– Don’t use sleep aides (alcohol or pills or melotonin)
Alright, now what is the harm from not getting enough sleep? I’m glad you asked!
– Heart Disease: Insufficient sleep engages the fight or flight response. The elevated stress has shown to increase the rate of heart attacks by up to 500%.
– Alzheimer’s: Without proper sleep our body does not clear out the plaques and proteins in our brains associated with Alzheimer’s, increasing risk of neurodegenerative disease.
– Obesity: Reduced sleep disrupts balanced hormone production, including gherlin (turns on appetite), leptin (turns off appetite), endocannibinoids (increases drive for junk food), and prolactin (increases carb craving). Sleep restricted people also burn more muscle instead of fat.
– Diabetes: Lack of sleep makes bodies respond to insulin as if they are pre-diabetic by affecting several systems associated with insulin sensitivity, including inflammation, the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, and metabolic and hormonal changes.
– Immune System: Lack of sleep increases the chance of becoming sick and can actually render vaccines less effective. People who get the flu vaccine and get less than full sleep for a week afterwards had fewer than 50% of the antibodies than the fully rested group. Similar results have been shown with Hep A & B.
– Cancer: A single night of getting four hours of sleep reduces the number of “killer cells” that hunt cancer by 70%. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep increases your odds of getting cancer by 40% and sleep deprivation has shown to increase the size and speed of cancer growth by 200%
– Sexual: Sperm and testosterone production is reduced significantly by lack of sleep, as is the hormones needed for regular ovulation and there is an increased risk of miscarrying.
–DNA: Significant gene distortion occurs without regular healthy sleep in as little as one week. The genes that were impacted included those involved in inflammation, cellular stress, cardiovascular health, and HDL.
So, yeah, I need to start prioritizing sleep.
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Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did! It desperately needs to be redone with a professional editor involved but here it is!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”