The Answer Might Shock You
By Mary West Guest Writer for Wake Up World
Sometimes small measures can have huge ramifications, either positive or negative. This proved to be the case in a recent British experiment involving getting one extra hour of sleep at night. The addition of an hour provided broad benefits, while the absence of the hour triggered a range of physiological processes that can adversely affect health.
Michael Mosley of the BBC reports that the amount of sleep people generally get has declined over the years, while the rates of diabetes and obesity have soared. After questioning whether the two trends could be related, he instigated a study to determine the effects of increasing sleep by one hour.
Scientists at the Sleep Research Centre in the University of Surrey studied seven volunteers who normally slept between six and nine hours per night. The participants were divided into two groups: one was asked to sleep 6.5 hours a night, while the other was asked to sleep 7.5 hours a night. After a week, the volunteers underwent blood tests and were asked to change patterns. Those who had been sleeping 6.5 hours were asked to sleep one hour more, and those who had been sleeping 7.5 hours were asked to sleep one hour less.
One Hour of Sleep Affected the Activity of 500 Genes
Researchers found that volunteers who slept an hour less struggled with mental agility tests, indicating the loss of a mere hour could hinder brain function. However, the negative repercussions from the small amount of sleep loss extended much further.
The most surprising results came from the blood tests, which revealed an astounding 500 genes were affected by the hour’s difference in sleep time. When the volunteers reduced their sleep by an hour, genes associated with immune response, inflammation and stress response became active. The team also saw increased activity in genes linked to diabetes and cancer risk. When the volunteers increased their sleep by an hour, the reserve occurred.
Other Effects of Sleep
Saves Memories: While he was waiting on the results of the experiment, Mosley visited the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford to learn more about the sleep process. Dr. Katharina Wulff explained that the brain works hard during sleep, shifting memories from short-term storage to long-term storage. A sleep deficit will result in the loss of some of these memories.
Reduces Anxiety: During rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, noradrenalin, a stress-related brain chemical, is switched off, Wulff says. The only time day or night that this occurs is during REM sleep. This shut-off keeps us calm during sleep while the brain reprocesses the events of the day, especially emotional experiences. A lack of REM sleep will curtail this benefit, leaving us more anxious the next day.
An unmistakably clear message emerged from the experiment as well as the interview with Wulff – getting less than an optimal amount of sleep can adversely affect your health in a broad spectrum of areas. Increasing your sleep can improve your quality of life.
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation provides the following tips for improving your sleep.
- Stick to a set sleeping schedule.
- Get regular exercise.
- Avoid exposure to bright light at night.
- Abstain from chocolate, caffeinated beverages and tobacco at night.
- Avoid nightcaps (alcohol) because they can cause you to awaken too early.
- Give yourself time to relax before going to bed.
- Avoid eating a large meal or beverage immediately before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom free of entertainment or work-related distractions.