Posted on 10th August 2022 at 07:34
A good night’s sleep is one of those things we all take for granted. That is until we’re wide awake at 3 in the morning and wondering whether we’ll ever go back to sleep before it’s time to get up…
Not surprisingly, many people have found their sleep patterns have gone completely haywire over the last couple of years. And there are many different possible reasons for this besides the uncertainty, stress and changes to routine; any of which can prevent us from having a good night’s sleep.
We’ve written about sleep several times before, not only about how to ensure a good night’s sleep, but how important it is from a housekeeping point of view; allowing our bodies to do the multitude of tasks vital for our health and wellbeing which can’t be done during the day. You can find the posts here and here.
And then there’s how sleep often seems to provide answers to questions and problems that have eluded us during the day. Those “ah ha” moments which seem to appear as if by magic after a good night’s sleep. You can find the post here.
However, it’s the knock on effect sleep – or a lack of it – has on our overall health that we’re going to focus on today. It comes courtesy of a number of pieces of research we’ve come across recently much of which – dare we say it (!) – comes under the heading of “common sense.”
Let’s start with a gentle reminder that nothing which happens in our bodies does so in isolation. Everything is connected and a small change in one place has knock on effects across the body as a whole. Without proper and regular sleep – and that means how long we sleep for, its quality and our sleep routine – health is adversely affected. The risk of all chronic disease is increased but particularly Diabetes, Heart Disease and Cancer, as well as degenerative diseases generally.
Well, in very simple terms, because it interferes with the all the processes that occur overnight while we’re asleep and are essential for good health. And top of this list is detoxification. If you want a very simple analogy, think what it would be like to stop your dishwasher or washing machine mid way through its cycle… Both for the machine itself and its contents. Once. Every time you used it…
Current research seems to indicate that 6 hours sleep is the threshold figure for the risks of poor sleep to start having an impact on our health. Not only does the risk of chronic disease start to increase, but also that for the risk of death generally, not just from particular health concerns. And for those with a chronic disease the impact is much greater, with the risk of death increasing much more steeply.
It also found that the quality of sleep was just as important. Not surprisingly, disturbed sleep – whether in the time taken to get to sleep or waking during the night – was associated with an increased likelihood of high blood pressure, Heart Attack and Stroke.
And one easily overlooked aspect of sleep, our sleep routine – or, all too often, a lack of it. Having a regular bedtime is important, particularly as it affects how easily we go to sleep and the quality of sleep. Research has found that going to bed between 10pm and 11pm seems to be the optimum time – provided we fall asleep by 11pm – with a much lower risk of Cardiovascular Disease, in particular, than those who go to bed before or after this time.
Which takes us on to some rather intriguing, and slightly controversial, research. This indicates that sleeping on your side improves the function and detoxing of the Brain’s Lymphatic System, known as the Glymphatic System. In particular, it helps in the removal of misfolded proteins which are the hallmark of many degenerative Brain diseases such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. In addition, it also found that the efficiency of the Glymphatic System was affected by disturbed or poor quality sleep, both of which are hallmarks of these conditions, so leading to a downward spiral.
As we said earlier in this post, much of this research simply reiterates what a little common sense can tell us. Having a regular bed time and routine goes a long way to ensuring a good night’s sleep, both in terms of how long we sleep and its quality. It allows our bodies to catch up on the all important housekeeping, clearing away the after effects of the day and getting us ready for the next one. Even more important, it reduces the risk of chronic disease and mortality. That’s two very big incentives for having a good bedtime routine.
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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