The 7 Keys To A Long And Healthy Life: Sleep

Sleep is such an integrated part of our lives that we tend to not give it much thought. Some people get just a few hours of sleep, and some are able to function on even less. What’s the big deal, anyway? We all get at least a bit of sleep, right? Does sleep really matter? If so, what’s considered “enough” sleep and is it possible to get too much?

In a previous article, we discussed the seven keys to longevity found by the Alameda County Health Study. The keys were:

  1. Sleeping seven to eight hours per night
  2. No eating between meals
  3. Eating regular breakfasts
  4. Maintaining a proper weight
  5. Exercising regularly
  6. Moderate or no drinking of alcohol
  7. Not smoking

Let’s start with number one: sleep.

How much sleep do you need?  

Studies have shown that it is possible to get too little and too much sleep, but in general, six to nine hours of sleep tend to be ideal for most people. It was shown that those that got less than six hours of sleep or more than nine hours of sleep had 60-70% increased the risk of dying during the nine-year period of the study. 1

The importance of sleep versus exercise

Can getting proper sleep be as important as exercise? In men, it was found that too much or too little sleep carried the same risk to of dying as not exercising regularly. Within the nine-year period of the study, those that did not exercise regularly were found to have a 50% increased risk of dying compared to those that exercise regularly.1

From this data, it appears that getting proper sleep can be even more important than exercise in order to preserve life and vitality. Obviously, getting both proper rest and exercise would be even better! In fact, they’re connected. Getting an hour of exercise can boost your natural melatonin levels by two or three times!Melatonin has been shown to increase sleep quality and is also linked to increased longevity.3

The link between sleep and stroke risk

Researchers have been increasingly interested in sleep and its effect on health. In a recent study, scientists in Japan followed 100,000 middle-aged men and women for fourteen years. Upon observation, those that got four or fewer hours of sleep and those that got ten or more hours of sleep had a 50% increased risk of dying from stroke.4

In 2014 a similar study was conducted among 150,000 Americans. Individuals that slept for six hours or less or more than nine hours had the highest stroke risk. The lowest risk was found among those that got seven to eight hours of sleep per night.5 Other studies conducted in China, Europe, and elsewhere have confirmed that seven to eight hours of sleep is optimal for health and longevity.

Tips for better sleep 

  • Make sure to get natural light during the day and avoid nighttime light exposure, such as light from television and phone screens. This has been shown to boost melatonin production. 6
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat foods with natural melatonin, like oats, corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas, and barley). 7
  • Sleep as early as possible. In general, the closer your bedtime is to sundown, the better for restful sleep. You know what they say, “Early to bed, early to rise.”
  • Eat foods high in tryptophan, such as tofu, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, and black walnuts. Tryptophan is one of the eight essential amino acids and is a precursor for melatonin production.

  1. Claustrat B, Brun J, et al. Melatonin and jet lag: confirmatory results using a simplified protocol. Biol Psychiatry. 1992 Oct 15; 32(8):705-711.
  2. Carr DB, Reppert SM, et al. Plasma melatonin increases during exercise in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1981 Jul;53(1):224-225.
  3. Reiter RJ. The ageing pineal gland and its physiological consequences. Bioessays 1992 Mar;14(3):169-175.
  4. Ikehara S, Iso H, Date C, et al. JACC Study Group. Association f sleep duration with mortality from cardiovascular disease and other causes for Japanese men and women: the JACC study. Sleep. 2009;32(3):295-301.
  5. Fang J, Wheaton AG, Ayala C. Sleep duration and history of stroke among adults from the USA. J Sleep Res. 2014;23(5):531-7.
  6. Lewy AJ, Wehr TA, et al. Light suppresses melatonin secretion in humans. Science.1980 Dec12;210(4475):1267-1269.
  7. Dubbels R, Reiter RJ, et al. Melatonin in edible plants identified by radioimmunoassay and by high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. J Pineal Res. 1995 Jan;18(1):28-31.

Source: https://lifeandhealth.org/lifestyle/healthy-habits/the-7-keys-to-a-long-and-healthy-life-sleep/1714324.html

 

How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?

About 24 years of our lives are being used for sleeping, yet the exact function of sleep is still not a 100% clear and debated by scientists.

Three groups of participants have been tested by scientists. The groups slept either 4, 6 or 8 hours per night over an extended amount of time. After two weeks, the group who slept 6 hours per night showed interesting results: Their reaction was similar to a person who had  blood alcohol concentration of 0.1 %. And even better: Those who slept only 4 hours per night would actually fall asleep during their cognitive testings.

Source: ASAPScience

Poor sleep quality increases suicide risk for older adults

sleep deprivationOlder adults suffering from sleep disturbances are more likely to die by suicide than well-rested adults, according to a study. “This is important because sleep disturbances are highly treatable, yet arguably less stigmatizing than many other suicide risk factors,” noted the lead author of the study.

“This is important because sleep disturbances are highly treatable, yet arguably less stigmatizing than many other suicide risk factors,” said Rebecca Bernert, PhD, lead author of the study. Bernert is an instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Suicide Prevention Research Laboratory at Stanford.

Bernert said older adults have disproportionately higher rates of suicide risk compared to other age groups, making suicide prevention in elderly populations a pressing public health challenge. Using data from an epidemiological study of 14,456 adults aged 65 and older, Bernert and her colleagues compared the sleep quality of 20 who died by suicide with the sleep patterns of 400 similar individuals over a 10-year period. They found that participants reporting poor sleep had a 1.4 times greater chance of death by suicide within a 10-year period than participants who reported sleeping well.

The study confirmed the relationship between depression and suicide risk, while also assessing poor sleep as an independent risk factor. “Our findings suggest that poor sleep quality may serve as a stand-alone risk factor for late-life suicide,” Bernert said. Surprisingly, the study found that, when comparing the two risk factors, poor sleep predicted risk better than depressive symptoms. The combination of poor sleep and depressed mood was the strongest predictor of suicide risk. “Suicide is the outcome of multiple, often interacting biological, psychological and social risk factors,” Bernert said. “Disturbed sleep stands apart as a risk factor and warning sign in that it may be undone, which highlights its importance as a screening tool and potential treatment target in suicide prevention. “Suicide is preventable,” she added. “Yet interventions for suicide prevention are alarmingly scarce.”

Bernert has two studies now underway testing the effectiveness of an insomnia treatment for the prevention of depression and suicidal behaviors. Most of the study’s suicide decedents were white men, which reflects a group at heightened risk for suicide in the general population, Bernert said, noting that additional research is needed to see if the correlation between disturbed sleep and suicide risk extends to women, minorities and younger adults or teenagers.

Source: Stanford University Medical Center

Sleep On It: How Snoozing Strengthens Memories

feature2

When you learn something new, the best way to remember it is to sleep on it. That’s because sleeping helps strengthen memories you’ve formed throughout the day. It also helps to link new memories to earlier ones. You might even come up with creative new ideas while you slumber. 

What happens to memories in your brain while you sleep? And how does lack of sleep affect your ability to learn and remember? NIH-funded scientists have been gathering clues about the complex relationship between sleep and memory. Their findings might eventually lead to new approaches to help students learn or help older people hold onto memories as they age.

“We’ve learned that sleep before learning helps prepare your brain for initial formation of memories,” says Dr. Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “And then, sleep after learning is essential to help save and cement that new information into the architecture of the brain, meaning that you’re less likely to forget it.” While you snooze, your brain cycles through different phases of sleep, including light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when dreaming often occurs. The cycles repeat about every 90 minutes.

The non-REM stages of sleep seem to prime the brain for good learning the next day. If you haven’t slept, your ability to learn new things could drop by up to 40%. “You can’t pull an all-nighter and still learn effectively,” Walker says. Lack of sleep affects a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is key for making new memories.

Read the full article.

Source and Photo Credit: NIH News In Health (part of US Department of Health and Human Services)

Why Do We Sleep

Russell Foster TED

Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist: He studies the sleep cycles of the brain. And he asks: What do we know about sleep? Not a lot, it turns out, for something we do with one-third of our lives. In this talk, Foster shares three popular theories about why we sleep, busts some myths about how much sleep we need at different ages — and hints at some bold new uses of sleep as a predictor of mental health.

Watch the video.