Lost Sleep Can Never Be Made Up

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Staying in
bed on the weekends won’t make up for a weeks’ worth of sleep
deprivation. A new study finds that going long periods without sleep
can lead to a sort of "sleep debt" that cannot simply
be undone with extra sleep later.

Such chronic
sleep loss may eventually interfere with a person’s performance
on tasks that require focus, becoming particularly noticeable at
nighttime. This could be due to the effects of your natural sleep-wake
cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Your natural
tendency to want to be awake during the day may mask signs of sleep
debt when it’s light out. But this protective effect may go away
as darkness arrives.

Further, just
10 percent of adolescents are getting the optimal hours of sleep
each night.

Here’s
how parents can help teens get the most possible sleep, despite
the demands of school and work:

  • Teenagers
    should stick to a consistent bedtime, preferably before 10 PM
  • Keep sleep
    and wake times as consistent as possible from day to day; maintaining
    a more regular sleep schedule makes it easier to fall asleep
  • Don’t sleep
    in – strive to wake up no more than two to three hours later
    on weekends to keep biological clocks on cycle

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s
Comments:

According
to a 2007 survey
of 12- to 16-year-olds, 25 percent fell asleep with the TV, computer,
stereo, iPod headphones or other electronic gadgets on. The same
survey revealed these teens only received four to seven hours of
sleep each night.

Other studies
show that adolescents actually have a different circadian rhythm
than children or adults. Teenagers experience a temporary resetting
of their body clocks which prompts them to fall asleep and wake
up later.

The hormone
melatonin is produced later at night for teens, which can make it
hard for them to fall asleep at an earlier hour. This temporary
adjustment in their body clocks is one of the reasons young adults
don’t get the amount of sleep they require.

In addition
to a shortage of rest, the quality of sleep these kids get can be
very poor.

In order to
get the highest quality sleep, you need to be in a room that is
dark as possible. Even the slightest bit of light can disrupt your
body’s circadian rhythm and production of melatonin and serotonin,
two hormones vital to your health.

Artificial
Light and Your Wake/Sleep Cycle

The invention
of electrical lighting has been both a boon and a bust. The benefits
of artificial light are obvious, but what about the drawbacks?

One of them
has to do with how long and how well people sleep these days.

When artificial
lighting was introduced, it increased the amount of daytime hours
and decreased the number of hours of an average night’s sleep
down to seven.

Circadian
rhythms are no longer able to adjust to a predictable pattern of
daytime and darkness, which has created a chronic modern day sleep
deficit and potentially devastating health consequences.

The Dangers
of Underestimating Your Sleep Requirements

Sleep deprivation
is such a chronic condition these days you might not even realize
you suffer from it. You might assume, since you rise when the alarm
clock rings and feel reasonably alert once you’re up and moving,
that the sleep you’re getting is adequate.

If you’ve
shorted yourself on hours and your quality of sleep for any length
of time, it’s likely your state of sleep deprivation feels
normal to you.

Researchers,
however, will tell you that a sleep deficit can have serious, far-reaching
effects on your health. Among them:

  • A single
    night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability
    to think clearly the next day.
  • Good sleepers
    and poor sleepers experience about the same number of daily minor
    stressful events, but good sleepers are less disturbed by them.
    Poor sleepers experience life events as being more negative than
    do those who sleep well.
  • Sleep deprivation
    can cause changes in your brain activity similar to those experienced
    by people with psychiatric disorders.
  • Sleep deprivation
    puts your body into a pre-diabetic state, and makes you feel hungry,
    even if you’ve already eaten.
  • Interrupted
    sleep can dramatically weaken your immune system.
  • Tumors
    grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe
    sleep dysfunctions.

How Lack
of Sleep Damages Your Health

Melatonin
is an antioxidant that helps to suppress harmful free radicals in
your body and slows the production of estrogen, which can activate
cancer. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your body may produce
less melatonin and therefore may have less
ability to fight cancer
.

Exposure to
light while your body is trying to sleep activates your stress response
and weakens your immune system, which is why irregular sleep cycles
can lead to stress-related disorders including:

  • Constipation
  • Stomach
    ulcers
  • Depression
  • Heart disease

A disrupted
body clock can wreak havoc on your
weight
. Losing sleep raises levels of two hormones linked with
appetite and eating behavior. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin,
a hormone that tells your brain you’re satiated, and increases
ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.

Lack of sleep
can destroy your memory. If your internal clock isn’t functioning
properly, it causes the release of too much GABA, the brain-inhibiting
neurotransmitter. According to the results of the Stanford study,
an excess of GABA inhibits the brain in a way that leads to short-term
memory problems and the inability to retain new information.

Sleep deprivation
ages you. Lack of sleep interferes with metabolism and hormone production
in a way that is similar to the effects of aging and the early stages
of diabetes. Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase
the severity of age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes,
high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss.

More Ways
to Disrupt Your Body Clock

Artificial
lights aren’t the only way you can disturb your circadian rhythm.
You can also confuse your body’s sleep/wake cycle by:

Many of your
major organs and body systems have their own internal clocks. These
clocks influence everything from your body temperature to hormone
production to your heart rate. When these clocks are out of whack,
all kinds of things can happen which impact your daily life and
your overall health.

A Debt You
Can’t Repay

For most people
who don’t sleep well, it has become a pattern and not just
an occasional night of restlessness.

A chronic
lack of high-quality sleep simply cannot be recovered. You can’t
stockpile a supply to use later, nor can you pay your body’s
sleep debt back.

You may feel
rested and sharper after sleeping in, but the benefit is temporary
and can be compared to depositing money in your account then withdrawing
it again a day or two later.

Lost sleep
is lost forever, and persistent lack of sleep has a cumulative effect
when it comes to the havoc it can wreak on your health.

How to Get
the Amount of Sleep Your Body Needs

As a general
rule, adults need between six and nine hours of sleep a night. Most
adolescents and teens do best with at least nine hours a night.

There are,
of course, exceptions – some people can function well on less
than six hours and others need more than nine.

Other factors
that can affect your sleep requirements include illness, emotional
stress, and the time of year (some folks need more sleep during
winter months). If you’re pregnant you might require more sleep,
especially during your first trimester.

If you feel
tired when you first wake up, you probably aren’t getting sufficient
sleep. It’s best to observe how you feel immediately upon awakening
rather than after you’re up and moving around.

Those first
few moments of wakefulness, before your mind fully kicks into gear,
are a better measure of how your body is feeling.

Some tips
for getting good quality sleep include:

  • Avoid before-bed
    snacks, particularly grains and sugars. This will raise blood
    sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low
    (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back
    asleep.
  • No TV right
    before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even
    out of the house, completely. It is too stimulating to your brain
    and it will take longer to fall asleep.
  • Wear socks
    to bed. Your feet will often feel cold before the rest of your
    body. A study has shown that wearing socks reduces night waking.
  • Get to
    bed fairly early. Our systems, particularly our adrenals, do a
    majority of their recharging or recovering between the hours of
    11PM and 1AM.
  • Keep the
    temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many
    people keep their homes and particularly the upstairs bedrooms
    too hot.
  • Eat a high-protein
    snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan
    need to produce melatonin and serotonin.

For a comprehensive
list of practical solutions for sleep problems, be sure to read
my 33 Secrets
to a Good Night’s Sleep.

If you have
trouble falling or staying asleep because your mind is racing or
you’re emotionally overwhelmed, I recommend you use Emotional
Freedom Techniques (EFT) for insomnia
.

Quality
Sleep is One of the Pillars of Good Health

Sleep is one
of your most precious resources. You undervalue its importance to
your health, longevity and the quality of your life at your peril.

Just like
exercise,
the health benefits you receive every night from sleep depend on
how long you spend at it and the quality of it.

Just as eating
for your nutritional type provides your body with a solid foundation
for health, so does good sleep.

And just as
processing
your emotions and stressful events
in a productive way helps
you remove the barriers to achieving optimal health and fitness,
adequate high-quality sleep is also a core building block for a
lifetime of wellness.

Related
Links:

February
3, 2010

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