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Sleep Is A Superpower

22 June 2021 Categories: Better Health Author: Michael Davis
Instead of sacrificing a few hours of sleep to meet your goals, read on to learn about how sleep (and not coffee!) can be your superpower!

These days, we all live busy lives with lots to fit into a day. Sometimes, it can be tempting to trade a few hours of sleep for a few hours of wakefulness to accomplish everything we need to do during the day. Numerous studies found that having insufficient quality sleep can increase our risk of several severe medical conditions. Some effects can include heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and our neurological health. In fact, sleep is so intricately tied to all aspects of our health and well-being that there is not a single element of our well-being that is not in some way affected by our sleep. Our immune systems, our sex drives, our reproductive health, and our neurological health are all negatively affected in some way when we do not sleep well. Instead of sacrificing a few hours of sleep to meet your goals, read on to learn about how sleep (and not coffee!) can be your superpower! 

Sleep and Our Sexual Health:

Men who sleep less than five hours per night on average have significantly smaller testicles than those who sleep seven or more hours per night. And while this fact might not seem significant, it also helps to know that men who sleep 4-5 hours per night on average have testosterone levels similar to those of men ten or more years older than them. Therefore, for men to be sexually healthy and happy, they need to get at least 7 hours of good quality sleep per night. In women, a lack of sleep also causes a decrease in fertility levels and can impact their ability to get pregnant. Research has found that women who have less than seven hours of sleep are 15% less likely to get pregnant than women who got seven to eight hours.  

TAKEAWAY: For healthy fertility and libidos, it is essential to get seven to nine hours of good quality sleep every night. 

Sleep Helps Learning and Memory:

Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and will not learn efficiently. Therefore, to prepare our brains to be in the best learning condition, it is vital to get adequate sleep beforehand. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information. Without healthy sleep after learning new information, we do not retain that information long-term. Studies show a 40% deficit when forming new memories while sleep-deprived, compared to a well-slept brain. 

TAKEAWAY: Our brains need adequate healthy sleep both before and after learning new information.

Quality Sleep Reduces Risk of Dementia:

Aging is attached to numerous health concerns, including sleep difficulties. It is common for older adults to experience variations in the quality and duration of their sleep. Many of these fluctuations occur due to changes in our internal clock. Differences in the production of hormones, such as melatonin and cortisol may also play a role in disrupted sleep in older adults. As people age, the body produces less melatonin. Melatonin secretes in response to darkness that helps promote sleep by coordinating circadian rhythms. Not getting seven or eight hours of restful sleep a night is linked to dementia, according to a recent study. After following nearly 8,000 people for 25 years, the study found a higher dementia risk with a “sleep duration of six hours or less at age 50 and 60” – compared to those who slept seven hours a night. 

TAKEAWAY: Getting seven to nine hours of healthy sleep nightly significantly reduces the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases later in life. 

Sleep is Healthy for Your Heart:

Studies have shown that poor sleep or insufficient sleep harms heart health. Sleep is the time for the body to recuperate, which is essential. During deep sleep, heart rate slows, blood pressure drops, and breathing stabilizes. These changes reduce stress on the heart, allowing it to recover from the stress experienced during your waking hours. Without sufficient nightly sleep, a person does not spend enough time in the deep stages of sleep that benefit the heart. For example, the same problem can affect people whose sleep is frequently interrupted due to obstructive sleep apnea. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause numerous heart problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, obesity, diabetes, and stroke.  

TAKEAWAY: For healthy and strong hearts, get seven to nine hours of sustained sleep per night.

Sleep and Your Immune System:

Sleep is the key to good health, and most people have first-hand experience of how a good night’s rest can make a big difference when the body is fighting off a cold or an infection. Research has shown that sleep loss and poor sleep quality impairs the immune response and can even delay wound healing. The immune system sends immune cells into battle, each with a different task when fighting an infection. T-cells primarily work on the front line, where they recognize and kill infected cells. They are like the FBI agents of your immune system – they identify dangerous unwanted elements and eliminate them from your body, including cancerous growth. In a study, participants were only allowed to sleep for four hours in a single night. The participants measured a 70% drop in T-cells. 

TAKEAWAY: Without adequate, good quality sleep on a nightly basis, we may only have 30% of our normal immune function to protect us. 

Are you or a loved one struggling with difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or frequent wakeups during the night? It could be a sign of a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing throughout the sleep cycle. These interruptions, called apneas, are caused by the collapse of soft tissue in the airway (or throat). The collapsing of soft tissue prevents oxygen from reaching the lungs. Weak muscles in the airway, a large tongue, obesity, and other factors may cause airway tissue to collapse and obstruct breathing, basically causing people to stop breathing. Sleep apnea disrupts the sleep cycle and can dramatically impact energy, mental performance, and long-term health. In some cases, if left untreated, sleep apnea can be fatal. If you’re unsure of where to start investigating your sleep quality, reach out to your closest Snore MD Sleep Apnea Clinic, where a member of our dream team will be happy to help you get started on the path to better sleep and better health.  

Michael - optimal care director
Michael Davis

Michael Davis is Snore MD's Director of Optimal Patient Care and community awareness. Driven by a passion for the quality of everyday life, Michael became a Respiratory Therapist in 2009 to help Canadians sleep better. With experience in critical care medicine, sleep medicine and pulmonary disorders, Michael leads a Dream Team of sleep experts to help Canada Sleep Better!

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