Sleep is a very important and underrated part of our health, so what happens when we do not get enough sleep?
Well actually it’s a whole list of things and we have gone into detail about a few of them here, plus keep scrolling all the way to the end to see Dr Mike’s top tips on how you can get a better nights sleep.
- Impaired insulin sensitivity:
Insulin is the hormone that promotes the cells of the body to absorb nutrients, particularly glucose. A study conducted not too long ago found that restricting one night’s sleep to 4 hours in healthy subjects, reduced the body’s sensitivity to insulin by up to 25%! (Donga et. at., 2010) Way to become pre-diabetic overnight. It is reasonable to expect that habitual sleep restriction may lead to problems down the line like type 2 diabetes. It is important to note that with good diet exercise and catching up on sleep can reverse these effects.
2. Increased inflammation:
Research has also shown modest restriction of sleep (from 8 hours per night to 6 hours) causes an increase in secretion of Interlukin-6 and TNFα which are markers of inflammation which may lead to other chronic conditions including, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance which often leads to type 2 diabetes. A quote from the author of this paper… “We conclude that in young men and women, modest sleep loss is associated with significant sleepiness, impairment of psychomotor performance, and increased secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Given the potential association of these behavioural and physical alterations with health, well-being, and public safety, the idea that sleep or parts of it are optional should be regarded with caution.” Vgontzas et. al. (2004)
3. Reduced immune function:
Sleep has been shown in multiple studies to assist in the regulation of adaptive immunity. Sleep can enhance the initial formation of the immune response to an unknown antigen, an identifying function of the immune system. Sleep has been shown to enhance the initial formation of the adaptive immune response also supports the long-term maintenance of the antigenic memory, a function hallmarking the immune system. (Besedovsky et. al., 2012) Therefore reduction in sleep may contributes to disruption of this process reducing our ability to fight off infection.
4. Affects Androgenic hormones:
A week of sleep restriction has been shown to reduce testosterone production in healthy male adults (Leproult & Van Cauter, 2011) estradiol and Prolactin have also been shown to affected by reduced sleep in men (González-Santos et.al., 1989)
5. Cognitive impairment:
When we are deprived of sleep we do not think as clearly, reduced concentration, changes in mood. Lack of sleep also affects working memory, shifting attention from one task to the next and abstract problem solving. In the older populations (Nebes et. al., 2009) reduction in Psychomotor performance (Van Dongen et. al., 2003) often people are unaware of increasing cognitive deficits. It appears that even relatively moderate sleep restriction if sustained night after night can seriously impair waking neurobehavioral functions in healthy young adults aged between 21-38. This demonstrates that sleep restriction has an effect any age.
Benefits of good quality sleep: feeling well rested, improved brain function, insulin sensitivity and normal fuel metabolism, good immune function, reduced systemic inflammation. Sleep doesn’t cost you anything it’s easy to do we are all wired up to sleep, there is lots of health to be had if we structure in some time for shut eye. If you are a shift worker or have issues with having a scheduled time to go to be and wake up, sleep when you can sleep.
Top tips for better sleep:
- Limit stimulant like caffeine or nicotine in the lead up to bedtime ideally no later than 2pm
- Avoid alcohol in the hours leading to bedtime, as alcohol does not aid in sleep rather it has an adverse effect on your brain causing unconsciousness not sleep (2 very different things)
- Light exposure during the brightest and lightest part of the day; ideally getting direct sunlight onto some exposed skin as Vitamin D is an important co factor in sleep
- Sleep in a pitch-black room the darker the better; this helps with regulation of the important sleep hormone melatonin
- Sleep in a cool room 17-19 degrees, when our core body temperature is too high it is hard to sleep. Which seasons do you find you sleep best in? The middle of summer when it doesn’t get below 40 or in winter when is super cold?
- Brain dump before bed: clear your mind, put thoughts on paper or into a to-do list before hitting the hay, the less mental distraction the better.
- Do not use electronic devices in the bedroom. Means no phones computers or television in bed, it should only be used for sleep.
- Reduce artificial light exposure after the sun goes down; by using blue light filters on technology (NightShift Twilight F.lux) wear red lens glasses when at home or in front of the television.
- Have set times to go to bed and set times to wake up, for those of you that have children you would know they sleep best if they have set bed times. Everyone works best when they have a schedule. I understand that if you work shifts this can be very difficult; the important thing is to prioritise sleep.
- Have stable blood sugar levels.
- Supplementation with vitamin D and magnesium can help with getting better quality sleep
And finally, make sure your bed is comfortable. Is your pillow right for you? When did you last buy a new mattress? It could be time for an upgrade and we recommend chatting to our team about the best options for you, both for your bodies alignment and for getting optimum comfort.
Besedovsky, L., Lange, T. & Born, J. (2012) Sleep and Immune Function. Pflugers Archives – European Journal of Physiology, 463:121–137 DOI 10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
Donga, E., van Dijk, M., van Dijk, J. G., Biermasz, N R., Lammers, G-J, van Kralingen, K., W., Corssmit E., P., M., & Romijn J., A. (2010) A Single Night of Partial Sleep Deprivation Induces Insulin Resistance in Multiple Metabolic Pathways in Healthy Subjects. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 95(6):2963–2968 DOI:10.1210/jc.2009-2430
González-Santos, M., R., Gajá-Rodríguez, O., V., Alonso-Uriarte, R., Sojo-Aranda, I. & Cortés-Gallegos, V. (1989) Sleep deprivation and adaptive hormonal responses of healthy men. Archives of Andrology, 22(3):203-7.
Leproult, R. & Van Cauter, E. (2011) Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men. Journal of the American Medical Association, 305(21): 2173–2174. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.710.
Nebes, R.D., Buysse, D.J., Halligan, E.M., Houck, P.R. & Monk, T., H. (2009). Self- reported sleep quality predicts poor cognitive performance in healthy older adults. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 64B (2), 180– 187, DOI:10.1093/geronb/gbn037
Van Dongen, H., P., Maislin, G., Mullington, J., M. & Dinges, D., F. (2003) The cumulative cost of additional wakefulness: dose-response effects on neurobehavioral functions and sleep physiology from chronic sleep restriction and total sleep deprivation. Sleep, 15;26(2):117-26.
Vgontzas, A., N., Zoumakis, E., Bixler, E., O., Lin, H., M., Follett, H., Kales., A. & Chrousos, G., P. (2004) Adverse effects of modest sleep restriction on sleepiness, performance, and inflammatory cytokines. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 89(5):2119-26. DOI:10.1210/jc.2003-031562