We know sleep is important, so why is it so difficult for many of us to prioritize getting a good night’s sleep and how does sleep help you AgeWell? Nearly one half of adults in America are sleeping less than 7 hours per night, when in fact most adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night for optimum health. In fact, sleep is essential for our bodies to recharge, process emotions, support our cardiovascular and immune systems and regulate our metabolism. Clearly, sleep is important for our bodies to perform at optimum levels and it does help you AgeWell.

Why is getting enough sleep so hard?

Why are adults getting on average one hour less sleep per night than we were in the 1940’s? One reason is stress, by being in a state of hyperarousal we can delay the onset of sleep and interrupt sleep with anxious thoughts. Another reason our sleep is delayed is from the use of electronics. By engaging in social media or games on our phones, computers or tablets we are keeping our brain in an aroused state later than we did in the past. Furthermore, our diets are affecting our sleep. By consuming too much caffeine, alcohol, and late meals we interrupt our circadian rhythm. Not to mention, there are many adults suffering from actual sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia. However, we generally are not paying enough attention to how our daily activities may be impacting our sleep.

5 Ways Sleep Helps you AgeWell

1. Sleep Helps You AgeWell by Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Sleeping is a requirement to maintain a healthy weight. Studies have shown that adults that do not get enough sleep are 55% more likely to become obese. Restorative sleep helps your body regulate your hormones which play a large role in weight. In addition, being fully rested provides you with the brainpower to make proper decisions around food and exercise.

2. Sleep Helps You AgeWell by Keeping Your Immune System Strong

We AgeWell by having a healthy immune system to fight off viruses, disease and heal from injury. This study found that participants that slept less than 7 hours a night were nearly 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more. In addition, while we sleep we see an increase in cytokine (a protein that controls the immune system’s cells) production. Some studies have also shown that adaptive immunity happens when you sleep, while the reasoning behind this is unknown it might be because of the decreased demands on your body while you sleep.

3. Sleep Helps You AgeWell by lowering the risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

Poor sleep has been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease. As a matter of fact, hospitals show an increase of 24% for heart attack cases when Americans “Spring Forward” annually. It is not just lack of sleep that can increase risk, it is also the quality of the sleep you are getting. When you suffer from sleep apnea your risk increases as well.

4. Sleep Helps You AgeWell by Maintaining Balanced Hormones

Our bodies are always working, especially when we are sleeping. When you are not getting enough sleep there are multiple hormones that are affected. First, lack of sleep can increase your levels of cortisol (stress hormone). Your adrenal glands produce more cortisol when you are sleep-deprived because your body is in a state of increased stress. Furthermore, the increase in cortisol then impacts your sex hormones. These are hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone which are linked to libido, energy, and concentration. Second, lack of sleep impacts your hunger hormones (Healthy Gut Microbiome) like leptin (satiety) and ghrelin (hunger). Because your body is unable to refuel from sleep it lowers leptin levels and increases your ghrelin so you eat more to get fuel from food. The third hormone that may be impacted by not getting enough sleep is your Thyroid. Lack of sleep can result in increased levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone which may cause symptoms like fatigue, feeling cold, hair loss, and a slower metabolism. As a final note, hormones and sleep play off of each other, picture a ping pong match; lack of sleep cues hormonal changes and the hormonal changes then impact your sleep cycle. That is why getting proper sleep is essential in maintaining balanced hormones.

5. Sleep helps you AgeWell by Maintaining Mental health

Studies have shown that lack of sleep increases the risk for depression and adversely affects how we read social cues. According to the sleep foundation “Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content.” Just like the correlation between hormones and sleep, mental health tends to have the same impact. Lack of sleep can intensify emotional distress, while emotional distress can intensify sleep issues.

Obviously, adequate sleep is essential to support your optimized health. However, lack of sleep is not always from staying up too late or pushing ourselves too hard. But, we can take control by recognizing if we are not getting enough sleep and taking steps to correct it. AgeWell is here to help! Since we practice Functional Health treat the whole body not just the symptoms. By addressing the root cause of your health issues we are often able to resolve symptoms like sleep issues. Call to find out how our practice in Denver can help you in The Art of Aging Well™!