I was reading some research recently talking about sleep, and the importance of it. I think we all get that sleep is important…we feel lousy if we don’t have a good nights sleep, feel groggy, aren’t as alert, tired, etc.
But other than feeling tired, does it affect our physiology, and have any potential long-term health consequences?
To answer this, the researchers took a group of people, and allowed them to sleep only 4 hours per night for a week. The other group, they allowed to sleep a regular amount, 7-8 hours. They then measured a bunch of blood chemicals, but particularly insulin and glucose levels.
Why did they measure these? Because elevated glucose levels in the blood, and insulin resistance, are associated with pretty much every disease process, from diabetes to heart disease, to stroke, to cancer. Elevated blood levels of glucose for extended periods of time are really, really bad.
What did they find? That after only 2 nights of impaired sleep, the insulin sensitivity dropped by 40-50%, and glucose levels in the blood increased by 40-50%.
Glucose in the blood increased by 50% because they didn’t get enough sleep!
Which essentially means that if you’re not getting enough sleep on a consistent basis, your chance of diabetes, and heart attacks, and strokes increase significantly, maybe by as much as 50%.
Wow! When I thought about this, I was kind of floored. So, what should you do about it?
First thing is, prioritize your sleep. It’s not just a “nice to have” optional thing, it’s super important. If you aren’t consistently getting 7-8 hours per night, here are some things to consider.
Research shows that the darker your room, the better your sleep, period. Even a dim clock radio can affect your hormone production as you sleep, and the quality of your sleep. Black out curtains on the window are a must to minimize light leakage, and a poor sleep.
Avoid screen time…cell phone use, tablet use, computers, within 30-60 minutes of bed. The blue light they give off affects your brain, and your ability to get a deep sleep.
Turn the temperature down when you sleep. All the research shows that people sleep better at lower temperatures, so drop it by 3 or 4 degrees.
Try all these things, none of which are hard, and let us know how it goes. Of course, getting adjusted consistently, so that your body is not sore and you can get comfortable when you sleep, is critical for a good night sleep.
Wishing you a deep, restful, healthy sleep.
Dr. Byron Mackay