For thousands of years the purpose of sleep has beguiled the cleverest minds. However one function of sleep is now understood to be the protection it offers against the UK’s leading causes of death. The risks of Dementia, Heart Disease, Cancer and Obesity are all heightened if we cut corners with our quantity and quality of sleep.
A BBC article highlighted the risks that we take with our health by missing out on 8 hours of good quality sleep.
Over the last twenty or so years science has made huge progress in its understanding of why we sleep. As non intrusive imaging techniques have evolved so has the ability to observe the mechanics of the sleeping mind and body. Highlighting exactly how the body uses various stages of the sleep cycle to clean, repair and renew various cell systems in our bodies as we sleep.
Protection from Dementia/Alzheimers
Only whilst we sleep is the brain able to effectively detox. Almost like pulling the plug on used bath water the brain drains away a fluid whilst we sleep that contains the days toxins. If this process is limited by short sleep scientists can recognise the build up of sticky toxin plaques that are in turn linked with dementia in later life.
Protection from Heart Disease/Stroke/Obesity
Scientists can now see how unhealthy sleep increases many of the risk factors that contribute to poor cardiovascular health. Inadequate sleep causes the mind to believe that we are in a position of danger. Pushing us into our flight or fight response mode we become stressed, heart rate and blood pressure rise, chemical production rises, we instinctively choose quick release energy foods are high in sugars and fats that can lead to obesity.
Protection from Cancer
A lack of sleep, even for very short periods, can have significant effects on the ability of our immune system to protect us from day to day threats like colds and viruses. Equally, we now know that the cancer killing cells in our immune systems are significantly depleted with even just a few nights of poor quality sleep. Thus increasing the risk of cancerous cells surviving in our bodies and speeding up the rate at which they spread.
We can see just how important it is to achieve a great nights sleep. If you give yourself a full 8 hour sleep opportunity; stay away from caffeine and alcohol after lunch time; resist electronic devices near bed time; keep your bedroom dark and cool and use a good quality mattress beautiful sleep can easily be achieved.