The importance of sleep to our health

The importance of sleep to our health

Often when life gets hectic (which tends to be all the time!), sleep is one of the first things to get sacrificed.  It’s a very dangerous game to play and one that can have significant health impacts as long term sleep deprivation can lead to increased risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke.  



Sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD says you'll burn out a lot sooner than you think if you're consistently sleep deprived. "I find it so interesting that even the healthiest people will sacrifice their sleep," said Dr. Breus. "Your brain does not allow you to feel sleepy or sleep deprived for quite a while. Thus you can 'tough it out' or supplement with caffeine, and bypass a lot of the warning signs of sleep deprivation, even as a healthy person."


Amy Shah, MD, a gut health and hormone expert, says that people simply don't acknowledge the important role of sleep in their well-being. "My problem is too often people with very stressful lives skimp on sleep as a badge of honor and then wonder why they are not able to lose weight especially that little bit of belly fat."


Several studies show how sleep negatively affects the brain's capacity to regulate appetite. In one study that examined metabolism, two identical groups with the same diet and exercise regimen were compared with one difference: sleep deprivation. The group that slept well lost weight while the sleep-deprived group gained it.


It also affects the gut-brain connection.  Vincent Pedre, MD, explains how it starts a hormonal chain reaction. "We have seen this in experiments done with mice: Creating artificial jet lag in the mice resulted in weight gain by altering the gut flora. Basically, sleep loss disrupts the hormone system, resulting in high blood glucose levels and increased insulin resistance, which leads to fat deposition inside and around the abdomen, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, increased hunger signaling and decreased satiety signal.’’


Sleep also plays a huge role in our ability to think creatively, and make complex decisions. It's important to experience all stages of sleep, especially deep sleep for mental processing.


Sleep can be one of the best things we do for our well-being and if it continuously gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list then it will eventually catch up with you.  A good excuse to go run a bath and get an early night!