Mar 11, 2019 • Longeviti

You Have Got to Get Some Rest

Scientists already knew that getting insufficient sleep negatively impacts both mental and physical health and that a good night’s sleep can be restorative, but until recently, it’s been a mystery as to why humans “waste” a third of their lives sleeping?

In a new study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel seem to have found the answer:

  • At the cellular level, the function of sleep is to give us an opportunity to do some nuclear maintenance within each neuron, promoting chromosomal activity and reducing the DNA damage accumulated in the brain while we are awake.

Damage to our DNA has multiple causes including oxidative stress, radiation and the everyday activity of our nerve cells and fortunately, there are DNA repair functions within each cell to help clean it up.

Unfortunately, the research shows that when we’re awake, DNA damage can pile up, often reaching unsafe levels. Bar-Ilan’s Prof. Lior Appelbaum calls this the “price of wakefulness.”

“It’s like potholes in the road,” “Roads accumulate wear and tear, especially during daytime rush hours, and it is most convenient and efficient to fix them at night when there is light traffic.”

The conclusion is that we need enough sleep to clean up the damage that’s being done to our DNA when we’re awake.

But for the many who don’t get sufficient sleep, there are other serious health risks to consider.

Chronic sleep deprivation alters your metabolism

  • leaving your muscles less sensitive to insulin, increasing your blood sugar
  • upsetting your circadian rhythms and appetite hormones causing you to be more hungry, likely to snack and more susceptible to weight gain and chronic disease (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc.).

There is no “catching up”

“Sleeping in” on weekends can’t make up for the sleep you didn’t get during the week, and it can’t fix a broken metabolism. There’s even a chance it could make things worse, according to new research in Current Biology.

  • People who sleep in on weekends have a greater impairment in their ability to regulate blood sugar than people who lose sleep all week long

“Our findings suggest that the common behavior of burning the candle during the week and trying to make up for it on the weekend is not an effective health strategy,” said senior author Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor and director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Lab in a story published in CU Boulder Today. “It could be that the yo-yoing back and forth—changing the time we eat, changing our circadian clock and then going back to insufficient sleep is uniquely disruptive.”

Get some rest!

There’s no avoiding it. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, you need at least 7 hours of sleep each night (1/3 of Americans). Ignore this vital health requirement and you risk unnecessary damage to your DNA, significant metabolic dysfunction and chronic disease. Speak to your Longeviti Health physician about what you can do to ensure you get enough rest.

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