How much sleep do you need?
45% of men reported believing it’s possible to train yourself to need less sleep but this is a myth. Your body requires adequate sleep – about eight hours a night or so – and there’s no way of “fooling” it or getting around this basic need.
It is important to understand that to achieve your full eight hours of sleep, sleeping pills are not the answer. See my full blog on herbs here and other techniques to help maintain sleep
What Happens When You’re Sleep Deprived? Three Primary Risks
What makes sleep deprivation so detrimental is that it doesn’t just impact one aspect of your health… it impacts many. Among them are three major risks to your mental and physical well-being:
- Reaction Time Slows: When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not going to react as quickly as normal, making driving or other potentially dangerous activities, risky. One study even found that sleepiness behind the wheel was nearly as dangerous as drinking and driving.
- Your Cognition Suffers: Your ability to think clearly is also dampened by lack of sleep. It makes difficulty in retaining memories, processing information, decrease problem solving, and making decisions. This is why it’s so important to get a good night’s sleep prior to important events at work or home.
- Emotions Are Heightened: As your reaction time and cognition slows, your emotions will be kicked into high gear. This means that arguments with co-workers or your spouse are likely and you’re probably going to be at fault for blowing things out of proportion.
Research has also found that sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness,3 which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.
Losing Just One Hour of Sleep Causes Negative Health Issues
Research also found that when participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night, there were increases in the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress.
From the results of this study, it appears as though sleeping for an extra hour, if you're getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, may be a simple way to boost your health. While getting just one hour less sleep a night may raise your risk of multiple chronic diseases.
Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
- Increase your risk of heart disease and cancer
- Harm your brain by halting new neuron production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus.
- Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training.
- Accelerate tumor growth—tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions
- Can also increase stress related disorders such as Stomach ulcers, constipation and depression.
- Increase your risk of dying from any cause
Naturopath Paul Chek on sleep and how it heals better than anything -
Weight Gain & Sleep
Just one hour too little sleep (6.5 hrs as opposed to 7.5) will also impair your ability to lose excess pounds or maintain your ideal weight. This is likely the effect of altered metabolism, because when you're sleep deprived, leptin (the hormone that signals satiety) falls, while ghrelin (which signals hunger) rises. It will also contribute to a pre-diabetic state, insulin-resistant state making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can wreak havoc on your weight.
Additionally, sleep deprivation tends to lead to food cravings, particularly for sweet and starchy foods. Researchers have suggested that these sugar cravings stem from the fact that your brain is fueled by glucose (blood sugar); therefore, when lack of sleep occurs, and your brain is unable to properly respond to insulin (which drives glucose into brain cells) your brain becomes desperate for carbohydrates to keep going.
When your circadian rhythms are disrupted, your body produces less melatonin (a hormone AND an antioxidant) and has less ability to fight cancer, since melatonin helps suppress free radicals that can lead to cancer. This is why tumors grow faster when you sleep poorly.
Melatonin is a regulator of your sleep cycle, and when it is suppressed, there is less stimulation to promote sleepiness at a healthy bedtime. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that helps combat inflammation as an integral component of your immune system. It may even have a role in slowing the aging of your brain.
Even more importantly, melatonin has been proven to have an impressive array of anti-cancer benefits.6 It not only inhibits the proliferation of a wide range of cancer cell types, it also triggers cancer cell apoptosis (self destruction) and promotes anti-angiogenesis, meaning it prevents the growth of blood vessels that feed the growing tumor.
Tips to promote the production of Melatonin:
- Be sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night.
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. As mentioned, these devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 pm and 10 pm,
- See more on my blog about sleep synchronization and circadian rhythm here and
- More tips in my full blog on your pineal gland here.
How much sleep do you need?
- Age Group Recommended # of hours of sleep needed
- Newborns (0-3 months) 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months) 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years) 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5) 10-13 hours
- School-age children (6-13) 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17) 8-10 hours
- Young adults (18-25) 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64) 7-9 hours
- Seniors (65 and older) 7-8 hours
Fitness tracker - This can help you to get to bed on time, and track which activities boost or hinder deep sleep. Many fitness trackers can now track both daytime body movement and sleep, allowing you to get a better picture of how much sleep you’re actually getting. Newer fitness trackers like Jawbone’s UP3, which should be released later this year, can even tell you which activities led to your best sleep and what factors resulted in poor sleep.
Certain Foods are Known to Help Promote (and Disturb) Sleep
- Foods that help promote sleep:
- Warm Chamomile tea as well as the herbs mentioned bleow can be helpful since it is known for its calming properties.
- Cherries are a natural source of the “sleep hormone” melatonin, and drinking tart cherry juice has been found to be beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality.2
- Almonds and spinach are rich in magnesium, which is known for promoting sleep and relaxing muscles.
- Foods such as grapes, cucumber and lettuce.
- Magnesium oil
- Foods that interfere with sleep when eaten before bedtime:
- Avoid Caffeine
- Avoid Spicy and salty foods are linked with more time spent awake during the night and taking longer to fall asleep.
- In general, you want to avoid snacks, particularly grains and sugars, since they will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep.
- Avoid alcohol or other stimulants.
- Meat and any other acid forming foods
Importance of when you eat:
Emerging research also suggests that the timing of your meals is important as well. For instance eating very late at night when you'd normally be sleeping, may throw off your body's internal clock and in addition lead to weight gain. It is suggested in Ayurveda to eat a larger lunch and a light dinner around 6pm making that your final meal before a 10-10:30 bedtime.
Why Sleeping Pills Are Not the Answer!
The natural sleep aids described above will work with your body’s natural circadian rhythm to help you get truly restful sleep. This is not the case with prescription sleeping pills, which may actually put your life in danger. A startling study in 2012 revealed that people who take sleeping pills are not only at higher risk for certain cancers (35 percent higher), but they are also nearly four times as likely to die as people who don't take them. The list of health risks from sleeping pills is growing all the time, including the following:
• Higher risk of death, including from accidents
• Increased risk of cancer
• Increased insulin resistance, food cravings, weight gain, and diabetes
• Complete amnesia, even from events that occurred during the day
• Depression, confusion, disorientation, and hallucinations
Research involving data from more than 10,500 people who received drugs for poor sleep (including benzodiazepines) also showed that "as predicted, patients prescribed any hypnotic had substantially elevated hazards of dying compared to those prescribed no hypnotics," and the association held true even when patients with poor health were taken into account – and even if the patients took fewer than 18 pills in a year.13 In The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills, an E-book by one of the study's researchers, Daniel Kripke, MD, it's explained:
"We have now published a new study of over 10,000 patients who took sleeping pills and over 20,000 matched patients who did not take sleeping pills. The patients who took sleeping pills died 4.6 times as often during follow-ups averaging 2.5 years. Patients who took higher doses (averaging over 132 pills per year) died 5.3 times as often. Even those patients who took fewer than 18 pills per year had very significantly elevated mortality, 3.6 times that of patients who took no hypnotics.
It seems quite likely that the sleeping pills were causing early death for many of the patients. In addition, those who averaged over 132 sleeping pills per year were 35% more likely to develop a new cancer…
Theoretically, there could be confounding factors or biases in the selection of patients which caused these deaths without involving sleeping pills. We can only say that we found almost no evidence of such biases… If sleeping pills cause even a small portion of the excess deaths and cancers associated with their use, they are too dangerous to use."