Tag: sleeping habits

How much or little you sleep has a profound effect on several key areas of your health. Some may shock you depending on whether, after reading the following, you currently fall into the group of sleepers who’re getting “just enough but not too much” sleep every night to both maintain health and avoid serious health complications.

Life is all about balance. And walking that fine line to a long, happy and prosperous life has never been easier thanks to all the great research being done in this area over the last decade or two.

There’s always been two sides to the “how much should you sleep argument” up until now. One says “sleep 5 – 6 hours then get up and start grinding!” While the other side says “If your body wants it, your body needs it. Sweet dreams!”

It appears neither group is right. We all need just the right amount to function properly and, if the current research is correct, we need just the right amount to avoid a number of nasty health complications.

Health issues caused by having too much sleep

So, what are the potential health problems that are caused by having too much or too little sleep?

Depression

While too little sleep can easily cause depression and a number of other brain-related disorders, it appears that sleeping too much can cause the same problem. Adults that sleep at least 7 hours appear to function just fine, whereas those who sleep upwards of 8 ½ to 9 hours have shown a 27% higher risk of depression when doing so on a regular basis (source).

Aging

Using the same criteria as listed above, people who are having too much sleep were found to subtract, on average, more than 2 years from their expected life span. It appears there’s a fine line between too much and too little and sleeping much more than 8 hours per night can take years off your life if you regularly engage in the practice of getting too many “restful” hours of sleep every night.

Diabetes

In as few as 6 years, people who sleep more than 8 hours every night are two-and-a-half times as likely to develop insulin resistance; the precursor to full-blow type-2 diabetes. It would be expected that some in the group tested were already well on their way to diabetes due to a diet high in sugars and processed foods. But, after weighing all the variables, researchers still concluded that the eight-hour-plus group were twice as likely to develop the disease. Considering that over 60% of all afflicted with this condition eventually develop heart disease, and most certainly kidney problems at some point, the consequences of too much sleep with regards to diabetes and its many complications are far reaching.

Weight Gain

It should come as no shock that more time spent lying on your back or side and not moving around can lead to more weight gain. A six-year-long National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey completed in 2012 by the Chicago Medicine School, found that people who slept between 8 and 9 hours, or more every night over a period of six years had gained over 11 pounds in comparison to those who slept less than 8 hours per day during the study. There are a number of reasons behind this. Like sleeping too little; sleeping too much can increase cortisol levels (ie., stress hormones) in the body, leading the body to store more fat. “People who sleep too much may also not make the best food choices,” said researcher Dr. Rohit R. Arora.

Heart

Increased aging, diabetes and carrying more dangerous fat stores in the midsection are each on their own contributing factors to fatal heart disease and stroke. Each brings with them a plethora of problems including cholesterol imbalance, high triglycerides, kidney disruption, hyperinsulinemia and hypertension, among other problems. Sleeping beyond 8 hours increases your risk of angina by double and has been found to slightly increase one’s risk of coronary artery disease – usually when combined with one of the other complications listed already.

Wasted Life

So few consider this side effect of sleeping too much until they start to get older and begin to realize how fleeting time is. Consider an adult who sleeps 7 hours per night (ie., the low end of the National Sleep Foundations recommendation), then compare that to someone who sleeps 9 (ie., the high end of the NSF’s recommendations):

The adult sleeping 9 hours every night is losing 3024 hours of living per year over the 7-hour sleeper. That’s 60,480 hours of life experiences lost just over the course of 20 years! Imagine the difference made to the quality of one’s life and career when choosing to get “just enough” sleep at night.

Higher Risk of Death

A 2010 study compiled data from 16 studies featuring over 1,300,000 participants, found some surprising increases in death rates in groups whose sleep times fell out of the ideal time range set out by the NSF currently. While having a 1.3 higher chance of death from health complications brought on by too much or too little might not seem like a big deal, it is. Using data from the study, that means 17,979 more people who slept outside the 7 – 9 hour time range set out by the NSF died when compared to those participants who were found to get just the right amount of sleep!

Recap:

The National Sleep Foundation currently recommends between 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal performance the next day. From what you’ve learned in this post, it’s probably safe to say that 7 – 8 hours is the real optimal range, as next day and overall health appear to start to decline when exceeding 8 hours per night on a regular basis.

It all comes back to balance: Just the right amount of “A” and just a sprinkle of “B” and you have the makings of a perfect dough or pastry. Get either wrong and you’ll have a culinary disaster on your hands.

We all need a few extra ZZZs than normal once in a while when we’re sick, injured, or overworked. And yes, sometimes we have to sacrifice a few hours, even an entire night on occasion. However, getting too much or too little on a regular basis could well be a death sentence.

Cover photo credit: Benjamin Busch / Flickr

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Sleep may seem like it is something that comes natural to us all. And it is. At least until we hit our formative early teenage years and life starts to throw curveballs at us like late night get togethers with friends, caffeine filled mornings that soon begin to spill into after-dinner lattes and espressos, all-nighters spent studying for a big test the next day, new and exciting television shows popping up on the tube several times a year…

Not to mention later issues like relationships, kids, career, and all those other passions that keep us up all night as adults!

Considering your health and well-being, things have got to change. Fortunately, there is a way.

Form healthy sleeping habits

Here’s 5 great sleeping habits that can really help you to get past the “sheep counting stage” and into that dreamy nighttime bliss we all so look forward to every night:

1. Start your bedtime routine at the same time every night.

And go to bed at the same time every night too! Have you ever noticed that same colored squirrel or bird darting and hopping around your yard by their favorite tree every morning? Or the big fat raccoon lumbering around near your garbage can at the same time every night? Your mind and body both thrive on a predictable wake/sleep routine that they can count on.

All animals and mammals work on the same principle, whether they’re naturally awake in the morning or evening. This is how things are supposed to work. Your body has a circadian rhythm governed by its “master biological clock” which prepares it to wake up and also to go to sleep, and this system will reward you with better sleep quality when you embrace it and stop changing things up all the time.

2. Avoid all those nasty chemical stimulants that are known to interfere with sleep.

Sorry folks, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sugar, and anything else known for its ability to wake you up and/or increase alertness is going to make it harder to go to sleep. Many caffeine junkies have uttered the phrase “this won’t keep me up” over the years. And sometimes this is true, but most times it’s just an illusion.

Same for alcohol, it might help you drift off more easily, but will soon have a stimulatory effect on the brain shortly after you drift off. Booze significantly lowers the levels of galanin in our brains. Galanin is the neurotransmitter responsible for getting us to sleep and keeping things that way. You may not wake up entirely, but you’ll definitely toss and turn and will not go into REM sleep mode as many times as you should during the night.

3. Make your sleeping space NASA Clean Air approved.

Nasty chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and ammonia are all around us in the air we breathe, particularly in confined spaces like our homes and vehicles. These chemicals can have a huge impact on our short term sleep quality, and our overall long term health in general. Worse, most of them are brought into our home by us in the cleaning chemicals, air fresheners and various fabrics we clean and decorate our homes with.

Check out this list of NASA-approved air filtering plants and make sure you have at least one, like an English Ivy or Bamboo Palm somewhere near your bed, so it cleans the air as you sleep. Never forget that air quality is synonymous with a good night’s sleep.

Good sleeping habits can help you to sleep well

4. Keep your sleeping space dark and cool.

Remember that our body prefers a predictable schedule in order to get to sleep and stay that way. Our bodies have adapted to Mother Nature during our existence on this planet and our genetics have several stimuli from our surroundings plugged into it to tell us when to sleep and when to wake.

Our eyes know the sun is rising as the early morning blue-spectrum lighting it gives off penetrates our eyelids, signaling the brain it’s time to finally wake up. If you tend to leave lights on, or don’t shut your blinds at night, this process can be triggered too soon, waking you up.

Same goes for temperature. Our bodies naturally use the ebb and flow of natural heat outside to manage our internal clock. Heat rises as the sun comes up and intensifies throughout the day, before it starts to cool as the sun dips below the horizon. Temperatures below 74 degrees are considered optimal on the high end, whereas temps falling below 54 degrees can be disruptive to sleep.

5. Make a conscious effort to shut your brain off leading up to bedtime every night.

A busy, worried brain is a brain that’s not going to want to go to sleep and even if it does, you’re likely to be awoken in the middle of the night due to some errant worry (or more typically, several annoying worries) that your brain has to deal with. For you, this might be reading a book or lying back on the pillow and sorting out the day’s events in your mind.

The most important thing is to begin this process well before you actually need to drift off, to ensure you’re not kept awake half the night trying to wind down. Having a good stress management routine is key to making sure you can tune out for some shuteye for at least 7 hours every day.

Ready to apply what you’ve learned?

Now that you’re armed with this information, it’s time to apply it to your own life and start getting the restful, rejuvenating, stress reducing sleep we all deserve – starting from forming good sleeping habits.

Time spent tossing, turning and/or lying in bed awake means you’re not going to be operating at 100% the next day. You owe it to yourself to get the best night’s sleep possible each and every night!

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