We devote about 1/3 of our lives to sleep, that means as I write this I am 29 years old and I would have slept for 9.67 years of my life already. Sleep is vital, It is as important to our body systems as eating, drinking and even breathing. It is also vital for maintaining good mental as well as physical health. But we can’t actually say for certain what sleep is actually for we just know it helps….like…A LOT because there is not one part of the body that doesn’t benefit from it or suffers from the lack of it. If you go without it long enough, you will definitely die.
However, how we die from a lack of sleep is actually a mystery. In 1964 a high school student in California set the record for the longest any human has gone without sleep, at the age of 17. Gardner stayed awake for 11 days and 25 minutes (264.4 hours).
Sleep has been linked to many biological occurrences in the human body from strengthening memories, replenishing hormonal balance, resetting the immune system and even draining the brain of built up neurotoxins. Poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain. People with a briefer sleep cycle tend to gain significantly more weight than those who get a recommended dose of 7-9hours per night. In fact, shorter sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. In one extensive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to develop obesity.
Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep is a brilliant read and I would recommend it to anyone. A professor of psychology and neuroscience researching the role of sleep in health and disease at University of California for several years. Evidence recommends that sleep deprivation is strongly related to heart disease and evidence is now displaying an increased risk of Diabetes and even Alzheimer’s. People with early signs of hypertension who slept for one more hour per night than they were previously doing showed a significant improvement in their blood pressure.
It’s thought that sleep helps your blood control stress hormones and supports your nervous system. Over time, a lack of sleep could upset your body’s ability to control stress hormones, ultimately leading to a rise in blood pressure.
A loss of sleep has even shown to weaken immune function. One large 2-week study monitored the growth of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the cold virus. They found that those who slept less than 7 hours were nearly 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 or more hours. It provides your body enough time it needs to rest and repair, which is one of the reasons you feel tired and want more sleep when you’re unwell. Sleep supports the proteins and cells of your immune system to detect and destroy any foreign invaders, like the common cold. It also helps these cells to remember how to fight these invaders.
Your sport doesn’t have to require quick bursts of energy, like fighting, weightlifting or sprinting to suffer, sleep deprivation will rob you of any sport you’re doing by challenging your energy and time for muscle repair and even drain your motivation, which is what gets you across the finish line. You’ll face a harder mental and physical challenge and can expect to see slower reaction times, so not being able to dodge that next punch and getting KO’d might actually be a blessing in disguise, at least you might gain some sleep time back. Proper rest sets you up for your best performance.
As osteopaths we really want patients to get the most from their treatments, having enough quality sleep and periods of relaxation built into your day are key ingredients on your journey back to living a pain free and healthy life.
“If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made” (Allan Rechtschaffen). So start to give up your consciousness for 7-9hours per night to basically live longer and healthier!