The Importance of Sleep

We discuss the impact adequate sleep has on our mental and physical health. Foods which help and hinder sleep are also covered.
The Importance of Sleep - Videos


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More by Stacy Reed, MS 

Mary Albus

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- [Mary] Hello, my name is Mary Albus, and I am with Penn State Extension.

In this presentation we will be discussing the importance of sleep on our overall health.

Many people are aware of the impact that sleep has on our mental health, but it is important to understand how the amount of sleep that we get each night impacts our physical health as well.

We will discuss how our heart health, blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and immune system can be affected by the amount of sleep we are getting.

We will also talk about the roles that different foods play in our ability to get a good night's sleep.

Lastly, we will cover some tips for getting the recommended amount of sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that American adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night of the week.

Children require a little bit more sleep, and should aim for nine to 11 hours of sleep every night.

A 2013 Gallup poll showed that 40% of American adults are getting less than what is recommended.

This lack of sleep may be due to demands of work, dependence on technology, commitment to academics, stress, and prioritizing social engagements over a good night's sleep.

While these things are all very important, we should try not to sacrifice sleep for them.

While you are sleeping, your brain works hard to prepare for the next day.

Your heart and blood vessels perform self-repairs.

Your hormones return to a balanced state, and your immune system is given time and energy to fight off illnesses.

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, narcolepsy, and abnormal sleep disorders make falling and staying asleep very difficult for those who suffer from them.

Sleep apnea, which makes breathing difficult in the night, puts individuals at two to four times the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Obesity is a significant risk factor for sleep apnea.

Sleep disorders cause stress on both the mental and physical health states of an individual.

A physician should treat these conditions early on so that the health implications of them can be controlled.

Inadequate sleep can impair our mental health by hindering our ability to remember things, to concentrate on tasks, and to perform and react in an appropriate manner.

Not getting enough sleep can also impact our mood, and make it difficult to have the energy and enthusiasm needed in our day to day lives.

Being tired can also make it difficult to learn new information.

Some physical health implications that inadequate sleep can contribute to include heart disease, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, weight management, and immunity.

We will first talk about sleep and heart disease.

The quality of the sleep that we are getting can increase our chances of developing coronary heart disease.

Coronary heart disease is when there is a blockage of one or more arteries that supply blood to the heart.

Harvard University recently conducted a study that linked reduced sleep with significantly increased risk for coronary heart disease.

Recent evidence has also connected sleep loss caused by obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder with increased risk for heart disease.

Lack of sleep increases C-reactive protein, which is released due to inflammation.

Too much of C-reactive protein in the body is a risk factor for heart disease.

More research is still needed to completely understand, but the mechanisms behind how blood pressure is altered based on sleep will give us a better understanding of how the heart is affected by sleep habits.

The length of sleep we get each night has a serious impact on blood pressure.

Blood pressure normally falls while we sleep.

And when we do not get enough sleep, our blood pressure tends to rise.

Our bodies respond to inadequate sleep by increasing the heart rate and tightening the blood vessels, increasing blood pressure due to the heart working harder than usual.

Duration of sleep also has an impact on blood sugar levels.

It is important that there isn't too much or too little sugar in the blood.

Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to regulate blood sugar levels.

Lack of sleep can increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes by impairing the function of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

Blood loss also increases hunger, which can result in higher than normal blood sugar.

The hormone Ghrelin in the body is responsible for signaling hunger to the brain.

Ghrelin levels are increased when you do not get enough sleep.

Those who get less than five to six hours of sleep a night are two times as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Several studies have linked insufficient sleep to weight gain.

Like the cause of Type 2 diabetes, weight gain related to sleep deprivation is caused by hunger hormones, altering the appetite in ways that it normally wouldn't.

When the body isn't given sufficient time to rest, Ghrelin is released to make us feel more hungry than we would have been if we had gotten enough sleep.

Leptin, another hunger hormone that signals the brain that we are full, is decreased as well, often resulting in excessive food intake.

Sleep is also needed in order for the body to have enough energy for the following day.

And if our body isn't given enough rest, it is unlikely that we will have the energy needed to participate and exercise.

The combination of eating more food or calories and exercising less, can lead to weight gain over time.

Studies show that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to develop a cold than those who sleep seven to nine hours a night.

Sleep deprivation impairs your immune system's ability to release certain cytokines, which promotes sleep when you are sick.

Cytokines are substances released by the immune system that have an effect on other cells in the body.

This lack of sleep can also affect how fast you are able to recover if you do get sick.

There are certain foods that can improve the quality of sleep that we get.

Components in these foods, such as melatonin, promote sound sleep.

Melatonin is a hormone that can be made in the body or found in foods that we eat.

Some foods promote further release of this hormone in the body.

Kiwis, cherries and skim milk, for example, create more melatonin.

Dairy, poultry, nuts, fruits and vegetables provide the body with a certain protein called tryptophan, which also aids in the creation of melatonin.

This is a list of just a couple of the many foods that have these sleep promoting qualities.

In general, following what is outlined by the Dietary Guidelines will provide you with foods that contribute to your overall health day and night.

There are stimulant components of other foods such as caffeine and sugar, which prevent your body from fully relaxing when trying to sleep.

Caffeine and sugar keep your mind alert.

These stimulants can be found in coffee, soda, chocolate, and high sugar cereals.

Alcohol is a stimulant, and consumption of it disrupts the sleep cycle.

Although spicy foods can have many health benefits, they can cause heartburn, indigestion, and increase body temperature which can make relaxation difficult.

Avoid sauces and flavorings that are too spicy before bedtime.

When fat is ingested, your body almost immediately starts working to digest it, causing a build-up of stomach acids which can cause discomfort.

Fat digestion also disrupts the role of melatonin.

The Alaska Sleep Clinic is a great resource for more information on foods' impact on sleep quality.

Here, you can find a larger list of the best and worst foods for sleep.

A further explanation of how the components of these foods impact sleep is available here as well.

There are ways to prepare your mind and body for a long, deep sleep.

Sticking to a set bedtime and wake time is key to setting an internal clock for yourself in regards to sleeping habits.

It is also crucial to create a restful environment for yourself when you are going to sleep.

Try keeping your room cool and quiet during the night.

Listening to relaxing music, reading a book or meditating are great ways to create a calming and restful sleeping environment.

As we discussed in the last slide, paying attention to what you eat and drink, and how that will impact your sleep will aid in choosing options that promote a good night's sleep.

Next, being physically active during the day promotes better sleep and overall health in general.

Lastly, avoid watching TV and reading from a screen close to bedtime.

Using these devices can keep your brain more alert than it needs to be at bedtime, which can make going to sleep difficult.

Thank you for watching this video on the importance of sleep on health.


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