The topic of ‘sleep’ is all the rage lately. I’ve seen many headlines on the topic lately ‘Yes, you still need 8 hours!‘ or ‘6 just won’t do!‘ But when our lives are busier than ever, how on earth are we supposed to dedicate 7-9 hours a night to sleep?? I don’t know about you, but when I understand why I need to do something, it is much easier for me to put it into practice.
Why is sleep important anyway? There are a myriad of reasons why. Sleep is a necessary process for the body to restore itself. During sleep, the body is recharging, restoring and recovering from daily activity. The gut is relaxed, muscles are relaxed and hormones are stabilized. So what happens when you don’t sleep well? Sleep deprivation can cause problems ranging from mild to severe, from yawning to heart issues, and many in between. Recently there have been studies that have shown just how important it is to get enough sleep and what will occur in your body when you don’t get enough, even for one night! These sleep deprivation effects include type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disease.
Many people squeak by on 6 or less hours of sleep a night and think that is enough. However, 6 seems to be the magic number, when you cross the line from the ‘healthy range’, into the ‘deprivation range’. Sleeping less than 6 hours a night increases your risk of most ailments, including Type 2 Diabetes. This is due to a number of factors. When you sleep less than 6 hours, your level of glucose tolerance decreases, you can become insulin resistant and this can happen within just a few days of sleep deprivation.
This data regarding Type 2 Diabetes, glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity has a great impact on obesity as well, as they all go hand in hand. The craziest thing I read recently from The Paleo Mom, is that in recent studies, it was shown that sleep is more impactful on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism than diet. Say WHAT?! Now, if that isn’t reason enough to get in all your zzz’s, I don’t know what to tell you.
Again, sleeping less than 6 hours increases your risk for cardiovascular diseases. Want some specifics? Less than 6 doubles your risk for a myocardial infraction, doubles your risk of stroke, increase risk of coronary heart disease by 48% and increases risk of congestive heart failure by 67%. Like Whoa. The Paleo Mom brought up a FANTASTIC point about cardiovascular disease over the past 30-50 years. We all know these diseases are on the rise. But society blames changes in foods for the increase in occurrences. Yes, trans-fat, processed foods and high fructose corn syrup are NOT GOOD for you. I get that. But look at what I wrote up above, in bold. It’s not just diet that controls our life. It’s not just one piece of the puzzle that controls the outcome of everything else. It all works together, either for or against us.
Finally, sleep deprivation definitely puts an individual at risk for autoimmune disease. Even just mild insomnia will increase risk of autoimmune disease by around 50%. Specifically, when dealing with sleep deprivation, the risk of rheumatoid arthritis goes up by 45%, Sjogrens syndrome by 51%, ankylosing spondylitis by 53% and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) goes up by a whopping 81%. Those are pretty incredible statistics. One study discussed findings that stated when the sleep cycle is disrupted, there is an increase in T cells in the body. T cells are immune cells, and are implicated in many autoimmune disorders. When there are too many T cells, the immune system becomes overactive and starts causing problems, like autoimmune disease.
Sleep and Multiple Sclerosis:
It’s clear that not getting enough sleep can affect your life in a multitude of ways, and you probably didn’t have to read this article to know that either. But how else can sleep affect us, especially the MSers? I know from personal experience, as I bet you do too, that after a night of fitful sleep, I just feel worse. I experience my MS symptoms stronger and I have a lower tolerance for them as well. Research is showing just how important sleep is to individuals with MS. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin are discovering that during sleep a specific brain cell called oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) doubles during sleep versus during waking hours. These specific brain cells are responsible for the production and repair of myelin. I’d say that’s a pretty important thing for us!
‘Just get more sleep’ isn’t as easy as it sounds, however. Stress, spasticity, pain and depression can all impact quality and quantity of sleep. Finding ways to control the symptoms that disrupt our sleep is key in improving quality of sleep and therefore quality of life. Meditation, going to bed when tired and avoiding naps can all help you in your quest for better sleep. Have you found something that works for you? I’d love to know! Leave a note in the comments and tell me about it! I need all the help I can get!
I’ve also created something special for you! 5 Tips to Improve Sleep! It has 5 ways you can improve your sleep environment and get better quality sleep, just by doing a few things differently. They’ve certainly made a difference in my life, (especially number 4).
You can grab your copy here 😉