Ever since hearing sleep expert Matthew Walker (author of the book Why We Sleep) on the Joe Rogan podcast discuss the importance of sleep, I’ve tried to prioritize never getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, and have cut out all caffeine other than my morning coffee. While I can’t say I don’t miss having a Coke in the afternoon and at dinner sometimes, I can definitely say that since making these changes I’ve felt a lot better overall. Here’s the episode if you haven’t seen it (strongly recommended):
In the video above Walker discusses how in the past, he thought that sleep was just one of the three key elements to a healthy life along with diet and exercise, but now considers sleep to be the cornerstone — even more important than diet and exercise.
In the spirit of educating people on the importance of sleep, I put out a request for sleep experts to say a few words on the topic. Here’s the request:
These days it seems more and more people take pride in how little sleep they get. How important is it to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night? What are the negative consequences to willingly depriving yourself of sleep? Any and all comments appreciated. Sleep experts only.
I got some good input on this from several qualified people, and would like to quote their responses here. Keep the video above, and the responses below, in mind next time you’re deliberately depriving yourself of sleep. 🙂
If you are qualified to speak on this topic, we’d like to hear from you: click here to make a submission. I’ll continue to update this post in future.
RELATED: See also our piece on how to sleep better, which currently lists 24 great sleeping tips from 24 different people:
Sleep is the most important thing people can do to stay well because your body makes your immune cells (called CD8 cells) in your gut, ONLY while you sleep. Not at any other time. So you must sleep 7-9 uninterrupted hours each night to keep your body healthy and strong. Plus this amount of time allows your brain to clean itself of viruses and bacteria, regenerate cells and repair itself. Sleep also allows your blood pressure to drop, which stimunlates the body to repair the arteries. The negative consequences of sleeping under 7 hours are - increased hypertension leading to heart disease, higher insulin levels leading to diabetes, decrease in hormones which make you feel full, so your appetite increases and results in weight gain and obesity. Your brain will not regenerate leading to neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's and Parkinson's) , and more... The main topics I would cover for your article are: how to calm down the fight/flight/freeze response so the body can rest and restore itself. I offer 7 steps to better sleep in my book that include - top quality nutrition, daily exercise, healing adrenal fatigue, detoxing from sugar, limiting alcohol and why it robs your sleep, balancing hormones, creating a sleep sanctuary, unwinding your nervous system so you can relax, and creating a self-care routine. Adopting a growth mindset is also very important at this time.
--Shawna Robins, powerfulsleepbook.com (available on Amazon here)
With so much technology at our fingertips, we often intentionally put off sleep to scroll social media or answer one more email. However, many people may not realize that just one night of shortened or reduced sleep can have dangerous consequences. Studies show that when we’re sleep-deprived, we have difficulty handling stress, experience slower cognitive abilities, and have trouble making decisions. Plus, our immune systems can become compromised—allowing harmful pathogens to get by our defense system, which is especially dangerous right now as we work to protect ourselves against the coronavirus. Over time, continuous sleep loss can lead to other serious conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
--Erin Rossi, Simply Rest
Helping people sleep better is one of our key goals at SleepingOcean, so I think I can share with you some of my findings and insights about the importance of getting 7+ hours of sleep.
Getting at least 7 hours of sleep, which is considered the minimum amount for a healthy adult, is essential. Sleep deprivation, regardless if it’s chronic or sporadic, comes with a lot of negative consequences. Here are the most common of them:
Sleep deprivation makes you angrier. Poor emotional regulation is one of the first negative effects of impaired sleep. Even a couple of hours can make a difference in your anger management (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181127111101.htm) and make you more irritable in frustrating situations. Interestingly enough that even though we know the relationship between sleep loss and negative emotions, the researchers found that the lack of sleep uniquely impacts anger, and your irritability doesn’t come as a result of the overall negative mood.
Sleep deprivation leads to insulin resistance. Along with causing havoc in your emotions, sleep deprivation can wreck your hormonal balance. Being a stressful event itself, sleep shortage can induce insulin resistance, thereby making you more prone to type II diabetes. A 2010 study found that sleep deprivation increased the hepatic insulin resistance and decreased peripheral insulin sensitivity (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20371664) in healthy subjects after just a single night.
Sleep deprivation affects gene expression. Now, we all know that lack of sleep affects certain cognitive functions, such as reaction time and memory. But what it does exactly is changing the gene transcription and translation (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272082981_Sleep_Deprivation_and_Gene_Expression) in different areas of your brain. The genes related to neuroplasticity and cognitive functions suffer the most. But as the sleep debt builds up, the sleep loss starts to affect the rest of your body, thereby resulting in different metabolic, hormonal, and physiological imbalances.
--Alex Savy, SleepingOcean.com
*1. How important is it to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night?*
We need at least 7 hours of sleep to fully function the next day. If you're regularly not getting sleep, chances are you are sleep deprived.
Insufficient sleep or sleeplessness when we do not get adequate sleep to feel alert and rested is termed as sleep deprivation. It is a serious disorder that impacts our quality of life, drains our health, happiness, and financial resources.
A chronic sleep-restricted state can result in clumsiness, costly diseases, acute fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and increased appetite thus causing obesity. It could also result in workplace absenteeism and accidents.
*2. What are the negative consequences of willingly depriving yourself of sleep?*
- *Inadequate sleep prevents the body from producing more cytokines to fight infection: *This slows down the recovery process and a person can take longer to recover from illness. Sleep deprivation also results in increasing the risk of chronic illness.
- *Sleep Deprivation can affect your immune system: *We can also state that lack of sleep makes your body more vulnerable with outside harms such as viruses. By getting a full night of sleep, we help our bodies fight back against potential threats. It's extremely important for you to get enough sleep, especially during this Coronaviruss outbreak.
- *Lack of sleep hurts cognitive abilities like learning and thinking: *Lack of sleep prevents your body from making new memories. Without enough sleep, the inbox of the brain shuts down and you can't receive new information. This impairs alertness, focus, attention, concentration, problem-solving skill, and reasoning.
- *Alzheimer's disease: *Lack of sleep will lead to an increase in the development of a toxic protein in the brain called Amyloid-beta which is associated with Alzheimer's disease.
--Amita Fotedar, Sleep Standards
Your query caught my eye because not only do I study sleep and sleep related products but I also pay close attention to my own sleep patterns as well. It's amazing how cutting your night of sleep short by just a couple hours can affect your mind and body.
It's largely accepted that for people between the ages of 18 to 64, the recommended amount of sleep per night is seven to nine hours. This amount is perfectly healthy and normal. With around eight hours of sleep, your body and mind is able to properly rest and recover.
However, not everyone is the same. Your genetics can play role when it comes to your circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. Simply put,* some folks are just genetically inclined to need less sleep just like some folks need more sleep than the average person*.
With that said, there are some *serious drawbacks to continuous sleep deprivation*. For one, by cutting down the hours you sleep, you're effectively cutting down the amount of deep sleep you get. Deep sleep is when your body and brain waves diminish. It's the time period when your body and mind can truly rest and recover. During deep sleep, your glucose metabolism levels rise, which help your short-term and long-term memory. In addition, your body emits important hormones during deep sleep like human growth hormone which is crucial for your body to grow and develop.
Furthermore, if you continue to neglect sleep, it can definitely have *long-term detrimental effects on your overall well-being*. There are plenty of independent studies out there that link the quality and duration of sleep to health issues like heart disease, strokes and depression. Sleep also helps strengthen your immune system. Without the proper amount of sleep each night, your body becomes weaker and is more susceptible to viruses and colds.
--Matthew Ross, The Slumber Yard