Not getting enough shut eye used to be considered a minor irritant, one that (perhaps) made us a bit grumpy, but nothing more. Now doctors realize the many health benefit of getting the proper amount of sleep. Specifically, the benefits of sleep on healthy aging are significant.
For instance, studies have shown that adults that routinely get less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep per night are more at risk of a host of age-related illnesses and diseases.
Statistically, your risk of having a heart attack or stroke is greatest in the early morning. This is due, scientists believe, to sleep’s affect on the blood vessels. These researchers know, for instance, that lack of sleep leads to higher blood pressure and cholesterol which are major risk factors for heart disease. They also know that the risk of developing this disorder increases with age. By implication, then, one of the benefits of sleep on healthy aging is a reduction in cardiovascular illnesses.
A surprising effect of sleep deprivation is weight gain. Several studies have shown that lack of sleep increases a hormone that causes hunger and decreases a hormone that signals satiety. The results is sometimes uncontrollable overeating which leads to weight gain. Unfortunately, carrying excess weight has been shown to increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many other ailments. This risk of developing these disorders increase with age, so the benefits of sleep on healthy aging are a reduction of these diseases.
One of the reasons your body deteriorates with age, researchers believe, is inflammation in the body. Moreover, such inflammation has been proven to cause heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. Sleep can help here, too; for consistently getting a good night’s sleep has been shown to reduce this inflammation.
As odd as it may seem, sleep deprivation even has an effect on cancer. For instance, studies have shown that those who work the night shift have a higher risk of colon and breast cancer. The culprit here seems to be melatonin, which is a hormone that your body uses to promote sleep. When workers are exposed to light during the night, their melatonin levels fall, which minimizes the cancer-protective properties of this hormone. If you don’t get enough shut eye, therefore, your chance of developing cancer is greater. Like most other diseases, the risk of developing cancer increases with age.
These are only a few of the benefits of sleep on healthy aging. But how can you make sure you’re getting enough sleep?Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep• Turn off your TV, computer, or back lit reader at least one hour before bed time. This will ensure your melatonin levels rise, making you tired.
• Ensure that your bedroom is dark and there are no noises coming from a television, radio, etc.
• Move your clock out of the bedroom (or at least turn it around so you can’t see the time). This will ensure that you’re not anxiously checking the time every few minutes while you’re trying to fall asleep.
Getting enough sleep is not difficult. It just takes some planning. But its beneficial effect on your health is well worth the effort!