The Importance of Sleep

I have recently read a very informative book on sleep. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker Ph.D. I will break down some of the reasons what is keeping us from sleeping in these next few blogs.  But first I want to address HOW sleep deprivation affects the body. 

Matthew Walker says “Sleep is the foundation on which the 2 main pillars of health rest. Those pillars being a healthy diet and exercise’.  Insufficient sleep proves ruinous to all the major physiological systems of the human body.  You maybe asking “what is considered insufficient sleep?”  Research shows most humans need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. There are very rare, and they stress, very rare instances where a person is considered not sleep deprived with less than 7 hours.  There are a few factors that combine with the 7-9 hours including what they call ‘in bed’ time where you are resting and getting ready to fall asleep.  I can discuss that at a later date. 

Today’s topic is Sleep Loss and the Cardiovascular System

Adults forty-five years or older who sleep fewer than six hours a night are 200 percent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke during their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven to eight hours a night. Part of the reason the heart suffers so dramatically with sleep deprivation concerns blood pressure and heart rate.  Walker states that one night of modest sleep reduction will promptly speed up a person heart rate and significantly increase the systolic blood pressure within their vasculature (Hypertension 27, no. 6 (1996) 1318-24).  This occurrence due to a lack of sleep is caused by an overactive sympathetic nervous system. This system when ‘on’ more than ‘off’, will release the brake that normally prevents your heart from accelerating.  No rest for the ticker, means over time work for a muscle that has a very important job. And we all know working overtime is tiring.

Additionally, growth hormone, the great healer of the body, which normally surges at night, is shut off by the state of sleep deprivation.  Growth hormone replenishes the lining of the blood vessels (endothelium).  Thus, no growth hormone means slowly worn down vessels with less integrity. 

Here’s another interesting issue, daylight savings time.  Studies have shown that even one hour less sleep in March every year sees a dramatic spike in heart attacks the following day!  Thankfully it works both ways in Oct/November, less heart attacks.

It’s a rabbit hole isn’t it?  More to come next time!

Peace and Love and Health

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