by Dr. Parker
Every animal sleeps. So, for 1/3 of the day, every animal is willing to give up eating, mating, and watching out for predators.
Why do we make such costly sacrifices to sleep? Because quality sleep is like the Swiss Army knife of health behaviors. By getting better sleep, you can improve nearly every system in your body. Conversely, if you struggle with an illness or other ailment, poor sleep is likely a contributor.
Also, consider this fun fact. When we lose one hour of sleep in the springtime due to daylight savings, there’s a 24% increase in heart attacks, car accidents, and suicide rates. When we gain an hour of sleep in the fall, heart attacks decline by 21% the next day.[i]
Here are some more examples to describe how quality sleep benefits every self-healing and self-regulating system in your body:
- Sleep does terrific things for memory and learning. In the last two hours of sleep, your brain presses the save button on the things you learned throughout the day. Then, like wringing out a sponge, sleep cleanses your learning palate and prepares you to soak in more information tomorrow. Also, compared to getting no sleep, sleeping for more than 8 hours per night doubles the number of neural connections in your brain. Call me crazy, but I’d say that sleep literally makes you smarter.[ii] [iii]
- The phrase “You can sleep when you’re dead” is meant to motivate productivity. But, as it turns out, the opposite is true. High-quality sleep makes you more productive, while poor sleep decreases productivity and increases all-cause mortality.[iv] [v] So, without proper sleep, you’ll die sooner, get sick more often, and be less productive throughout the day.
- Your brain is affected by sleep more than any other system. Poor sleep is one of the most significant contributors to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Men who sleep 5-6 hours per night have the testosterone levels of a man who is ten years older.[vi] [vii] These underslept men also have smaller testicles, produce fewer sperm, and their sperm have more deformities and less motility.[viii] If you want a better sex life, or if you’re trying to have a baby, sleep more.
- Poor sleep messes up your hormones to promote weight gain. When sleep-deprived, you produce more ghrelin and less leptin, making you hungrier and prone to overeating.[ix] Sleep deprivation also raises cortisol levels, which stimulates fat production.[x]
- There is scientific proof that the more you sleep, the more attractive you appear.[xi] [xii] A.k.a., we’ve proven that beauty sleep is real.
- Sleep alters muscle memory and increases peak force in muscles, which leads to improved reaction times, reduced injury rates, increased accuracy and speed, and decreased fatigue.[xiii] In other words, your brain is practicing while you sleep! If you want to be a better athlete, artist, employee, etc., sleep like you mean it.
- Your immune system is most active while you sleep. After one night of inadequate sleep (<4 hours), natural killer cell activity decreases by 70%.[xiv] One night! Since natural killer cells play an essential role in stopping cancer and tumor growth, we could reasonably assume that lack of sleep increases your risk for cancer and tumors. That is why working the night shift is now considered a carcinogen.
- Sleep is the ultimate antidepressant. One full night of sleep raised depression scores by 6 points on the Harrington Depression Scale, while the most effective antidepressants only improved depression scores by 1.5 points.[xv] Similarly, most suicides occur when someone is sleep-deprived.[xvi]
- Picture a young kid having a temper tantrum in the grocery store. The kid’s parents will often say, “I’m sorry; he/she didn’t sleep well last night.” Those parents are correct; poor sleep (specifically, a lack of REM sleep) is associated with poor emotional regulation. And adults are just as likely to be emotionally affected by poor sleep. But, instead of a public outburst, our “tantrum” might show up as misplaced anger, frustration, impulsivity, or a general lack of emotional control. When you get high-quality REM sleep, though, you recalibrate the emotional centers in your brain. Sleep is like an emotional first aid.
I cannot reiterate this enough. Sleeping is NOT a “waste of time.” It’s not worth it to lose sleep to “get a jump on the day” or because you “need to go to the gym.” Sleep is your gym. Sleep is your ultimate healing tool. And sacrificing sleep will make you more susceptible to injury, less productive throughout the day, and less happy with your life. It’s time to take back your sleep, people!
P.S. If you want some habits and tips & tricks for improving your quality of sleep, check out Dr. Parker’s book, “Lifelong Youth: The Simple Path to a Long & Youthful Life.” You can find it here.
Dr. Parker Hewes
If you are dealing with some nagging issues that you just need a little help with, give Dr. Parker a call. He specializes in sports injuries throughout the arms, legs, and back.
[i] Sandhu A, Seth M, Gurm HS. Daylight savings time and myocardial infarction. Open Heart 2014;1:e000019. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2013-000019
[ii] Tononi G, Cirelli C. Sleep and the price of plasticity: from synaptic and cellular homeostasis to memory consolidation and integration. Neuron. 2014;81(1):12-34. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2013.12.025
[iii] Raven F, Van der Zee EA, Meerlo P, Havekes R. The role of sleep in regulating structural plasticity and synaptic strength: Implications for memory and cognitive function. Sleep Med Rev. 2018;39:3-11. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2017.05.002
[iv] Gingerich SB, Seaverson ELD, Anderson DR. Association Between Sleep and Productivity Loss Among 598 676 Employees From Multiple Industries. Am J Health Promot. 2018;32(4):1091-1094. doi:10.1177/0890117117722517
[v] Yin J, Jin X, Shan Z, et al. Relationship of Sleep Duration With All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Events: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;6(9):e005947. Published 2017 Sep 9. doi:10.1161/JAHA.117.005947
[vi] Burschtin O, Wang J. Testosterone Deficiency and Sleep Apnea. Sleep Med Clin. 2016;11(4):525-529. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2016.08.003
[vii] Abu-Samak MS, Mohammad BA, Abu-Taha MI, Hasoun LZ, Awwad SH. Associations Between Sleep Deprivation and Salivary Testosterone Levels in Male University Students: A Prospective Cohort Study. Am J Mens Health. 2018;12(2):411-419. doi:10.1177/1557988317735412
[viii] Zhang W, Piotrowska K, Chavoshan B, Wallace J, Liu PY. Sleep Duration Is Associated With Testis Size in Healthy Young Men. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(10):1757-1764. Published 2018 Oct 15. doi:10.5664/jcsm.7390
[ix] Ding C, Lim LL, Xu L, Kong APS. Sleep and Obesity. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2018;27(1):4-24. doi:10.7570/jomes.2018.27.1.4
[x] van Dalfsen JH, Markus CR. The influence of sleep on human hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis reactivity: A systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. 2018;39:187-194. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2017.10.002
[xi] Holding BC, Sundelin T, Cairns P, Perrett DI, Axelsson J. The effect of sleep deprivation on objective and subjective measures of facial appearance. J Sleep Res. 2019;28(6):e12860. doi:10.1111/jsr.12860
[xii] Axelsson J, Sundelin T, Ingre M, Van Someren EJ, Olsson A, Lekander M. Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people. BMJ. 2010;341:c6614. Published 2010 Dec 14. doi:10.1136/bmj.c6614
[xiii] Simpson NS, Gibbs EL, Matheson GO. Optimizing sleep to maximize performance: implications and recommendations for elite athletes. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2017;27(3):266-274. doi:10.1111/sms.12703
[xiv] Walker MP. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. New York, NY: Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.; 2018.
[xv] Walker MP. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. New York, NY: Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.; 2018.
[xvi] Goodwin, Renee D., and Andrej Marusic. “Association between short sleep and suicidal ideation and suicide attempt among adults in the general population.” Sleep 31.8 (2008): 1097-1101.