Science: Better sleep = A better life
In almost any adult life, there’s so much to do and so little time to get it all done. But shortchanging your sleep for other priorities, such as work tasks, family responsibilities, working out or just watching a favorite show or catching up on social media, isn’t great for your health. In fact, if you regularly get less shut-eye than your body needs, you may find yourself more cranky, forgetful or heavier than you want to be.
And that’s just the beginning.
Numerous medical studies have linked insufficient sleep to serious health issues. A 2013 report in the journal Sleep Medicine associated inadequate sleep with high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes. A 2016 report in the Journal of Sleep Research found an association between sleep deprivation and memory problems. Research published in 2007 in the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found attention issues in those low on sleep, and chronically sleepy people are believed to have a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, depression and early death, according to a 2015 report in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. That same report noted that logging fewer than seven hours of sleep a night is also associated with “impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors and greater risk of accidents.”
You won’t look good physically while you’re burning the midnight oil, either. Director of The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle, Catherine Darley, ND, notes that “the mouth droops at the corners, puffy eyes develop, and there is increased inflammation causing redness,” citing a 2013 study in the scientific journal Sleep.
How to avoid both looking and feeling worse for the wear? It’s simple: Put yourself to bed.
“When people get enough sleep, they tend to get thinner,” says Eric Braverman, MD, the director of PATH Medical, a New York City-based medical practice. “Their neck volume can shrink and they create more muscle, [while] their hormones, memory and attention all improve. Even cardiac output and endurance improve.”
Sleep: How much is enough?
Some physicians say that sleep requirements vary from person to person. “Each of us has a specific amount of sleep that we need,” says Neil Kline, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, a spokesperson for the American Sleep Association. “There is no magic pill or medication that can fix insufficient total sleep.”
Others are more specific about sleep hours: The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society released a joint statement in 2015, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, stating that adults aged 18 to 60 require seven hours or more of sleep a night “on a regular basis to promote optimal health.”
According to the ASA’s Sleep Hygiene tips, it’s important to develop a routine for winding down at the same time each night, using the bed for sleeping, and not for reading or watching TV. It also helps to monitor your food and caffeine intake, and exercise regularly but not in the hours leading up to bedtime.
“Although many of the recommendations for sleep hygiene are common sense, a large percentage of the population violate these regularly,” notes Kline.
Fight the trend—go to sleep early tonight and every night. Your health—and your looks—depend on it!
Written by Cheryl Alkon
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