sleep

Some basic lifestyle habits improve our health. However, we fail to adhere to some of these basic nature prescriptions, and this eventually predisposes us to most of the modern health crises.

Studies have confirmed the many benefits of sleep on our health.

It has also been established we need about 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. However, due to current situations, most fail to get enough sleep.  

The interesting thing is that though sleep is good for our health, studies have also confirmed that if you sleep too much it could also predispose you to cardiovascular diseases. Is this not interesting?

I also found that sleep is akin to eating nutritious food, drinking water, and exercising regularly, getting quality sleep is an important component of overall health. Although the exact reasons humans need to sleep remain unknown, sleep experts agree there are numerous benefits to consistently getting a full night’s rest.

While sleeping, the body performs several repairing and maintaining processes that affect nearly every part of the body. As a result, a good night’s sleep, or a lack of sleep, can impact the body both mentally and physically. In this article, I review the benefits and side effects of too much sleep.

Sleep, supporting literature

Weight

Some studies (Brum et al. 2020; Itani et al. 2017; Cooper et al. 2018) confirmed that when we sleep less than 7 hours per night; we have an increased risk of weight gain and a higher body mass index (BMI).

Another study (Bacaro et al. 2020) also found that adults who slept less than 7 hours per night had a 41% increased risk of developing obesity. On the other hand, when we sleep longer, we experienced no increased risk.  

In the case of Cooper et al. (2018), the study held that many factors account for the sleep effect on weight gain, such as hormones and motivation to exercise.

Another study (Ding et al. 2018) found that when we deprived ourselves of sleep, there are increased levels of ghrelin and decreased levels of leptin.  These two hormones control our drives to eat: Ghrelin makes us feel hungry and leptin makes us feel full. This may cause us to feel hungrier and overeat.

For instance, two studies (Dashti et al. 2015; Satterfield and Killgore, 2020) found that those who deprived themselves of sleep eat more calories due to a higher appetite drive.

And the danger is that to compensate for the lack of energy, when you deprived yourself of sleep it makes you crave foods that are higher in sugar and fat, due to their higher calorie content (Yang et al. 2019; Khatib et al. 2017).

Sleep improves concentration & Productivity

Studies have established the benefits of sleep on brain function. For instance, (Hudson et al. 2020; Eugene and Masiak, 2015; Krause et al. 2017) studies attest that when we deprived ourselves of sleep, our cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance are all negatively affected.

This was demonstrated in an important study (Trockel et al. 2020) where doctors with moderate, high, and very high sleep-related impairment were 54%, 96%, and 97% more likely to report clinically significant medical errors. This means that medical people need good sleep to save patients.

Apart from that, other studies (Okano et al. 2019; Zeek et al. 2015; Turner et al. 2021; Stormark et al. 2019) found that when we sleep well, we improve our academic performance- children, adolescents, and young adults.

Finally,  (Dai et al. 2020; Könen et al. 2015; Rana et al. 2018) also note that when we have good sleep, helps to improve our problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance in both children and adults.

Increases athletic performance

Studies have also confirmed the impact of sleep on athletic performance. For instance, (Vitale et al. 2019; Charest and Grandner, 2020; Bonnar et al. 2018) found that adequate sleep can enhance fine motor skills, reaction time, muscular power, muscular endurance, and problem-solving skills.

In the case of Charest and Grandner (2020), the authors held that lack of sleep could increase our risk of injury and decrease our interest to exercise.

Cardio support

Some studies, (Covassin and Singh, 2016; Javaheri and Redline, 2017; Drager et al. 2017) established that low sleep quality and duration could increase our risk of developing heart disease.  In the case of Krittanawong et al.(2017), 19 reviews found that sleeping less than 7 hours per day resulted in a 13% increased risk of death from heart disease.

Another analysis by Yin et al. (2017)found that compared with 7 hours of sleep, each 1-hour decrease in sleep was associated with a 6% increased risk of all-cause mortality and heart disease.

Additionally, (Makarem et al. 2021; Makarem et al. 2019) also found that when we engage in short sleep, it tends to increase the risk of high blood pressure, especially in those with obstructive sleep apnea — a condition characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep.

For instance, Wang et al. (2015) found that people who slept less than 5 hours per night had a 61% higher risk of developing high blood pressure than those who slept 7 hours.

When one would think that it is better to sleep more;  It appears otherwise, and three studies(Krittanawong et al. 2019; Yin et al. 2017; Wang et al. 2015) found that excessive sleep in adults — more than 9 hours —is linked to increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Diabetes risk

Chattu et al.(2014) established that short sleep is linked to a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance — meaning your body cannot use the hormone insulin appropriately.

In another study, Anothaisintawee et al.(2016) examined 36 studies with over 1 million participants and found that when we sleep  5 hours or  6 hours increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 48% and 18%, respectively.

Additionally, Grandner et al. (2016) believed that when we don’t sleep can cause physiological changes like decreased insulin sensitivity, increased inflammation, and hunger hormone changes, as well as behavioural changes like poor decision-making and greater food intake — all of which increase diabetes risk.

Finally, (Grandner et al. 2016; Kim et al. 2018) established that when we also don’t sleep, it can lead to a higher risk of developing obesity, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome, and, in turn, can increase the risk of diabetes

Poor sleep is linked to depression

Some studies (Li et al. 2016; Marino et al. 2021; Oh et al. 2019) have linked mental health conditions, such as depression, to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders.

For instance, Oh et al. (2019) study of 2,672 participants found that those with anxiety and depression were more likely to report poorer sleep scores than those without anxiety and depression.

In other studies, (Hayley et al. 2015; Fang et al. 2019) found that people with sleeping disorders such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report higher rates of depression than those without. This is therefore prudent for those with sleeping challenges and mental health issues to seek medical help.

 Immunity enhancement

Some studies (Besedovsky et al. 2019; Opp and Krueger, 2015) have associated lack of sleep to impair immune function.

In one study, Prather et al.(2015) found that respondents who slept less than 5 hours per night were 4.5 times more likely to develop a cold as compared to those who slept more than 7 hours.

Additionally, in a recent study by Prather et al. (2021), the authors found that those who sleep well improve their body’s antibody responses to influenza vaccines.  This means good sleep before and after affects vaccination.

This was further confirmed in recent studies by (Benedict and Cedernaes, 2021; Robertson and Goldin, 2022; Zhu et al. 2021; Kow and Hasan, 2021), the authors found that having good sleep before and after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination may improve vaccine efficacy.

Poor sleep and inflammation

Studies have established that not having a good sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in the body. For instance, Irwin, MR(2019) found that sleep plays an important role in the regulation of our central nervous system.  The author further asserts that it is also involved in the stress-response systems known as the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

Subsequent studies (Irwin et al. 2016; Irwin, 2019) also linked Sleep loss, from not sleeping, activate inflammatory signaling pathways and lead to higher levels of undesirable markers of inflammation, like interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein.

They further explained that when this happens for a longer period, chronic inflammation can trigger many chronic conditions, including obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and type 2 diabetes.

Emotions and social interactions

Studies have also established that sleep loss reduces our ability to regulate emotions and interact socially. For instance, two studies(Dorrian et al. 2019; Beattie et al. 2015) held that we find it difficult to control our emotions when we become frustrated leading to outbursts. Thus tiredness could also affect our ability to respond to humor and show empathy.

Thus, Simon and Walker’s (2018) study found that people who are frequently sleep-deprived are more likely to withdraw from social events and experience loneliness.  Hence, there is a need to pay attention to sleep to enhance our relationships with others and help us become more social.

Lack of sleep can be dangerous

It has been established that if we don’t have good sleep can be dangerous. For instance, being severely sleep-deprived is comparable to having consumed excess alcohol. Joe Leech(2022) in his article on sleep reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 25 people have fallen asleep at the wheel while driving. Those who slept fewer than 6 hours were most likely to fall asleep while driving.

This was further complemented in one study(Tefft BC, 2018) that found that people who slept 6, 5, 4, or fewer than 4 hours had a risk of causing a car accident that was 1.3, 1.9, 2.9, and 15.1 times higher, respectively. This study suggests that your risk of a car accident increases significantly with each hour of lost sleep.

Additionally,  the CDC found that if we don’t sleep for more than 18 hours is similar to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. After 24 hours, this increases to 1.00%, which is over the legal driving limit.

In a previous study, Hassani et al.(2015) found that lack of sleep may also increase the risk of workplace injury and errors.  In a nutshell, having enough sleep is helpful for our safety.

Take Home

I have found that sleep is akin to paying attention to your diet and exercise. Hence, as you pay attention to a good diet, if you neglect sound sleep, you have done nothing. I have also found that our needs in sleeping differ. However, for sound sleep, studies recommend that you should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health.  Failure to do this could predispose you to the many negative health implications associated: with heart disease, depression, weight gain, inflammation, and sickness.

The most interesting thing I also found is that if you sleep more than 9 hours too you are predisposing yourself to too many negative health issues. So don’t sleep less and don’t go overboard for 9 hours. This means latest by 10 pm one should go to bed. Those with a different work schedule should have a sleep pattern to meet their health needs.  

NB:

Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups.  My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, President, of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation.

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