Okay let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of sleep deprivation statistics and studies.

Cranky and irritable?A study from the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard Medical School found that cranky and irritable moods is your brains way of telling you it is time to sleep. The first neurological probe into the emotional brain without sleep has found evidence that sleep deprivation causes our emotions to go haywire. –USA today October 22, 2007 (I don’t think any of us are surprised by this.)According to the US Department of Labor the vast majority of people are sleeping far less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours and therefore are not getting enough sleep to maintain optimal health and peak productivity.

To show you how important sleep is below is list of the short-term consequences associated with sleep deprivation:

• Sleep deprivation induces significant reductions in performance and alertness. Reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as 1.5 hours for just one night can result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32%.

• Decreased alertness and excessive daytime sleepiness impair your memory and your cognitive ability.

• You may experience a poor quality of life. For example, you might be unable to participate in certain activities that require sustained attention, like going to the movies, reading your favorite book, seeing your child in a play, or watching a favorite TV show, or enjoying a church service.

• Excessive sleepiness also contributes to a greater than twofold higher risk of sustaining an occupational injury.

• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates conservatively that each year drowsy drivers are responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.

In the long term, untreated sleep disorders or prolonged sleep deprivation are associated with many serious illnesses, including:

• High blood pressure
• Heart Attack
• Heart Failure
• Stroke
• Obesity
• Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
• Mental impairment
• Fetal and childhood growth retardation
• Injury from accidents
• Increased risk of colon and breast cancer.

Though most of the things we know about sleeping have only been found out in the last 25 years there are some things that have come out front and center about why sleep deprivation can be so devastating to our bodies.

An article from the Washington Post titled “Scientists Finding Out What Losing Sleep Does to a Body” by Rob Stein stated the following:

“Physiologic studies suggest that a sleep deficit may put the body into a state of high alert, increasing the production of stress hormones and driving up blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Moreover, people who are sleep-deprived have elevated levels of substances in the blood that indicate a heightened state of inflammation in the body, which has also recently emerged as a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.” 

“Based on our findings, we believe that if you lose sleep that your body needs, then you produce these inflammatory markers that on a chronic basis can create low-grade inflammation and predispose you to cardiovascular events and a shorter life span,” said Alexandros N. Vgontzas of Pennsylvania State University. 

Other studies have found that sleep influences the functioning of the lining inside blood vessels, which could explain why people are most prone to heart attacks and strokes during early morning hours. 

“We’ve really only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding what’s going on regarding sleep and heart disease,” said Virend Somers of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “I suspect as we understand more about this relationship, we’ll realize how important it really is.”
After several studies found that people who work at night appear unusually prone to breast and colon cancer, researchers investigating the possible explanation for this association found exposure to light at night reduces levels of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is believed to protect against cancer by affecting levels of other hormones, such as estrogen. 

“Melatonin can prevent tumor cells from growing — it’s cancer-protective,” said Eva S. Schernhammer of Harvard Medical School, who has conducted a series of studies on volunteers in sleep laboratories. “The theory is, if you are exposed to light at night, on average you will produce less melatonin, increasing your cancer risk.” 

Other researchers are exploring a possible link to other malignancies, including prostate cancer.
“There’s absolutely no reason it should be limited to breast cancer, and it wouldn’t necessarily be restricted to people who work night shifts. People with disrupted sleep or people who are up late at night or get up frequently in the night could potentially have the same sort of effect,” said Scott Davis of the University of Washington. 

In addition, studies show sleep-deprived people tend to develop problems regulating their blood sugar, which may put them at increased risk for diabetes. 

“The research in this area is really just in its infancy,” Van Cauter said. “This is really just the tip of the iceberg that has just begun to emerge.”
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

So what does all this nitty-gritty statistics and facts tell us? Adequate sleep is good, sleep deprivation is bad.

Below are a list of some helpful suggestions to help your body get the sleep it needs:

Don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed, for what you drink at night will likely want to come out before you want to get up.

Try taking power naps 10-20mintues if you need to “catch up” on some sleep. If your nap goes longer than 20 minutes it will do your body more harm than good.

Get adjusted! We have frequently found that getting stress off the nervous system helps a person relax better, especially with kids. 

Listen to white noise or relaxation CD’s before bed.

Avoid watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the internet before bed. If you have a TV in your bedroom take it out.

Wear socks at night, as your feet get cold easily research as shown that those who wear socks wake up less frequently throughout the night.

Keep a note pad next to the bed to jot down those persistent thoughts that are keeping you from getting your rest eye.

Your bedrooms temperature should not exceed 70 degrees.

Don’t change your bedtime. Go to bed and get up at the same day each day (yes, even the weekends) this helps your body get into a sleep rhythm, it also makes it easier to get to sleep and wake up refreshed.

Exercise at least 30 minutes each day for better sleep.

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