Using a bedroom air filter that traps fine particles of pollution with diameters smaller than 2.5 micrometers can significantly improve breathing in asthmatic children, a new study in JAMA Pediatricsfound.
The research documents that physiological improvements occur in the childrens’ airways when air filters are in use, and it suggests that with consistent use, the filters may help prevent, not just alleviate, asthmatic flare-ups.
While using the filters daily for two weeks, children in the study experienced decreased airway resistance and lung inflammation and increased airway elasticity, among other benefits.
“Pharmaceutical companies have spent large amounts to develop drugs that can work on lower airways, but they are very expensive. Our results show that using an air purifier to reduce the exposure of lower airways to pollutants could help asthmatic children breathe easier without those costly drugs,” Junfeng Zhang, professor of global and environmental health at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, says in a statement.
“This warrants a clinical trial to confirm findings,” he says.
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is a ubiquitous air pollutant originating from fossil fuel emissions, wildfires and other biomass burning, industrial sources, and gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. Thirty times smaller in diameter than a human hair, the particles are easily inhaled and can penetrate deep into the small, or lower, airways where they can trigger or exacerbate asthma symptoms. Inhalers don’t help, since they are only designed to open upper airways, according to the researchers.
The scientists conducted the double-blind crossover study in a Shanghai suburb during a period of moderately high PM2.5 pollution in 2017. They gave 43 children with mild to moderate asthma two air filters to use in their bedrooms. One was a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter capable of removing PM2.5; the other was a sham filter. Each filter was used for two weeks in random order with a two-week interval in between. Neither the children nor their families knew which filter was which.
Results showed that PM2.5 concentrations inside the children’s bedrooms were a third to two-thirds lower when the real air filters were in use than when the sham ones were being used, Michael H. Bergin, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, says in a statement.
This drop coincided with significant improvements in how easily air flowed in and out of the children’s small airways and lungs, Bergin says. These improvements included a 24% average reduction in total airway resistance, a 43.5% average reduction in small airway resistance, a 73.1% average increase in airway elasticity, and a 27.6% average reduction in exhaled nitric oxide, a biomarker of lung inflammation.
Although the benefits lasted only as long as the real air filters were in use, “it’s probable that if children use the filters on an ongoing daily basis they will see continued benefits,” Zhang says.
If clinical trials confirm the new study’s findings, the filters could serve as a practical preventive measure for asthma management in polluted outdoor or indoor environments worldwide, he says. They could also be lifesavers in areas near wildfires.
“Look at the high PM2.5 pollution levels that occurred in San Francisco last year as a result of smoke from the California wildfires, and at the air-quality problems happening this year from the bushfires in Australia,” he says. “People should really consider using one of these devices during wildfires.”
Almost one-in-five British people report they don’t get enough sleep each night. The problem is so bad that in total the UK public are losing around a night’s worth of shut-eye each week.
There are a lot of popular beliefs about foods and drinks helping people get a good night’s rest, but many of them are not based on scientific evidence. Here’s what we know.
Chemistry of food and sleep
Our diet has an influence upon sleep patterns by affecting the sleep hormone melatonin. For example, foods rich in the essential amino acid tryptophan are commonly cited as helping sleep, as tryptophan helps produce melatonin. Additionally, some vitamins and minerals may help sleep, such as vitamin D, magnesium and zinc.
Tart cherries: A number of studies have looked at consumption of tart cherries, usually in the form of a drink, and sleep. Evidence suggests that tart cherries improves sleep in older adults, probably due to their ability to increase melatonin levels. And tart cherries are also rich in nutrients, including magnesium, which also may improve your sleep.
Kiwi fruit: The evidence for kiwi fruit helping you sleep is mixed. One study suggested four weeks of kiwi fruit consumption improved multiple sleep measures, while another, admittedly in sufferers of insomnia, found no effect. Based on these findings it is not clear yet that eating kiwi fruit will benefit sleep for most people.
Oysters: In 1888 W F Nelsom wrote “He who sups on oysters is wont on that night to sleep placidly…”. There is some evidence to back up this statement, with zinc-rich foods, including oysters, being reported to benefit sleep. However, on balance eating oysters before bedtime is unlikely to be beneficial to your night’s sleep.
Warm milk: Research conducted in the 1970s suggested that a glass of warm milk before bed could improve sleep quality. This research was performed in a very small group however, and little research has been done since. Drinking milk does increase melatonin levels which could help. But there isn’t enough evidence to support the claim that a glass of warm milk definitely makes you nod off.
Bone broth: Bone broth commonly crops up in online articles as a food that can aid sleep. This may be due its high content of the amino acid glycine. Glycine has been shown to improve sleep in rodents and humans, possibly by lowering body temperature. There are however no studies specifically looking at bone broth consumption and sleep.
Herbal teas: The range of herbal teas aimed at the sleep market has grown and grown. Evidence for valerian, a common ingredient, to aid sleep is inconclusive. Decaffeinated green tea has been reported to improve sleep quality, which might be linked to the relaxing qualities of L-theanine, an amino acid it contains, but in general, avoiding caffeinated teas is a wise choice. If you like herbal teas, then they can be part of a relaxing pre-bedtime routine – but they are unlikely to improve your sleep quality.
A bedtime routine
Having a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep are important. These include keeping to the same time to head off to bed, making your bedroom free of disruptions and having a relaxing pre-sleep routine. But many of the foods that have claimed benefits for sleep have little or no evidence behind them, to the point there are no legally recognized health claims for food assisting sleep approved in the UK or Europe.
If any one of these things helps you to sleep well, there’s no reason to stop. But just remember the other basics of a good nights sleep too, including relaxing before bed and avoiding too much blue light from electronic devices.
Comments Off on All the best sleep products we tested in 2021
We thought to jumpstart the New Year we would share this exhaustive list of fantastic sleep aids. We stumbled across this article from CNN and found it shareworthy.
CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or office chairs — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
This year, we tested dozens of sleep-related products — from bedding to alarm clocks — to find the best products you need to get the rest you need.
Best down comforter overall: Brooklinen Down Comforter (starting at $159; brooklinen.com)
Have you ever wished you could sleep on the clouds? Well, the Brooklinen Down Comforter is the closest thing to that. From the moment we took it out of the packaging, we had a hunch that this would be a favorite. And we were right.
The comforter comes in three different weight options: lightweight, all-season and ultra warm. We tested the all-season comforter, and despite it being the middle of winter with temperatures dropping indoors and out, we found it to perfectly balance snuggly warmth with breathability. Though on the heavier end of the spectrum (it boasts a 700 fill power and baffle box design), we never found the comforter to trap too much heat or cause nighttime sweating. The comforter, with its 100% cotton sateen shell, was one of the softest we tested — and the one we kept coming back to cuddle into most nights.
Best down comforter for warmth: The Company Store Legends Hotel Alberta Down Comforter (starting at $299; thecompanystore.com)
When it comes to warmth and coziness, the Legends Hotel Alberta Down Comforter from The Company Store is unrivaled.
Full disclosure: This comforter is for truly frosty climates, or especially cold sleepers. Though available in three different weights — light, medium and extra, all of which sport a baffle box construction — we tested and recommend the extra warmth option (which has a 650 fill power). While our main tester, who tends to sleep hot, found this lofty comforter slightly too heavy to sleep with throughout the night, a cold-sleeping family member absolutely loved the warmth the Legends Hotel Alberta Down Comforter provided.
Best down-alternative comforter: Buffy Cloud Comforter (starting at $109.65; buffy.co)
The Buffy Cloud Comforter was like no other comforter we tested. This down-alternative comforter was by far the best alternative version we tested — and the only one we’d recommend, as the other down alternatives we tested lacked in both quality of construction and comfort.
Although this was a new type of material for us — as we typically sleep with a down comforter in our nontesting days — we thought the fabric was very soft and lightweight but still heavy enough to keep us warm throughout the night. The comforter was also very quiet, emitting no crinkling sounds when shifting sleeping positions.
Best overall flannel sheets: Garnet Hill Hemstitched Supima Flannel Bedding ($197 for a queen set; garnethill.com)
Luxurious without feeling overly thick or too weighty, Garnet Hilloffers a delectably comfortable flannel sheet at a mid-to-high end price point, starting at $197 for a queen set (which includes two pillowcases, a fitted sheet and a flat sheet). These flannels come in lots of varieties of color and size, and instill confidence you’re getting a quality product that’ll last for years to come.
Best lighter-weight option: West Elm Organic Flannel Solid Sheet Set ($170 for a queen set; westelm.com)
Very close to our overall favorite because it is both supremely cozy and the most lightweight of all the sets we tested is West Elm’s organic flannel sheet, which starts at $170 for a queen set. These sheets didn’t come out on top because they’re available in only two colors and cannot be ordered a la carte like Garnet Hill’s sheets.
Best cold-weather sheets: L.L.Bean Ultrasoft Comfort Flannel Sheet Set ($119 for a queen set; llbean.com)
If you’re sleeping in really cold weather and you want to feel positively bundled, L.L.Bean makes a weighty flannel sheet for you — at a competitive price point for the level of craftsmanship therein at $119 for a queen set.
Best bargain: Pinzon Signature Cotton Heavyweight Velvet Flannel Sheet Set ($70.99 for a queen set; amazon.com)
Also delivering an excellent and very warm night of sleep, Pinzon by Amazon turns out a substantial flannel sheet at just $70.99 for a queen set. That’s half the price of some of the other higher-end brands, but you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing quality.
Best linen sheets overall: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
Making the bed with these sheets was effortless. We’ve struggled with tight-fitting cotton sheets before, wondering why bed-making must be truly laborious. The Parachute linens were roomy but not baggy. They fit the bed comfortably, like a lovingly worn-in linen button-down. On the summer night we first tested these, the sheets were soft but also firm. If this sounds uncomfortable, it was the converse: cool, light and luxurious. Our first mental note was that we felt like we were sleeping on a cloud.
These are a sturdier, thicker option than some of the ones we tested, and thus feel like they’ll transition well into colder weather. Without an air conditioner unit blasting directly onto us in the heat of summer, these sheets almost felt heavy — so they wouldn’t be our first recommendation for hot sleepers. In a more temperature-controlled room, though, they felt so cozy we didn’t want to leave the bed.
After even the first washing, these beauties softened significantly, rendering them even more snuggly.
These sheets are the definition of soft. So comfortable. So enveloping. So melty. (They’re crafted from 100% French and Belgian linen, made in Portugal, and Oeko-Tex-certified for chemical safety.) We sort of dissolved into them in a very pleasing way. They felt like they had been washed and rewashed dozens of times, already achieving that texture, and from a sleeping experience alone, they were our favorite.
Best affordable linen sheets: Amazon Simple&Opulence 100% Washed Linen Sheet Set (starting at $114; amazon.com)
For less than $150, this is a very satisfying set of linens. While the sheets were slightly less luxurious-feeling and special than some of the other sets with special details or touches, these rank as high-quality, durable bedding more than worth their weight.
Best duvet cover overall: Casper Sateen Duvet Cover (starting at $99; casper.com)
Hands down, the Casper Sateen Duvet Cover was the best duvet cover we tested. From the moment we took it out of the bag, we knew this one would be a winner. Between the zipper closure at the bottom to the hidden holes on the corners to more easily attach the cover to the duvet, the design of this duvet cover blew the others we tested out of the water — all for a middle-of-the-road price tag.
Best duvet cover for warmth: L.L.Bean Ultrasoft Comfort Flannel Comforter Cover (starting at $64.95; llbean.com)
For the colder months, or for those looking to outfit their cozy cabin, the L.L.Bean Ultrasoft Comfort Flannel Comforter Cover will give you the utmost softest feel while adding some warmth, as it was made from the thickest material we tested. And at less than $100 for a king-size cover, its quality and comfort surpass the price.
Best luxury duvet cover: Boll & Branch Signature Eyelet Duvet Cover Set (starting at $358; bollandbranch.com)
Want something a little more than plain Jane when it comes to design? If so, the Boll & Branch Signature Eyelet Duvet Cover is the perfect middle ground: It’s elegant but adds some design elements with borders. A full overlay also covers the bottom buttons, completing the design border. The quality is superb, with all stitching, ties and buttons fully secure. Note that this duvet cover isn’t cheap — in fact, it’s the most expensive of all we tested — but it’s one of the few luxury brands that also includes shams, making it easy to ensure that your bedding will match.
Best affordable duvet cover: Mellanni Microfiber (starting at $27; amazon.com)
If you love walking into a hotel room and getting comfy on those sleek-looking beds, you’ll love the Mellanni Microfiber Duvet Cover. With hidden button covers and matching shams and pillows, this comfortable duvet cover will lend an elegant vibe to your bedroom — at just around $30 in total for a five-piece set, an absolute steal in our book.
Best silk pillowcase overall: Fishers Finery 25mm 100% Pure Mulberry Silk Pillowcase ($49.99; amazon.com)
Fishers Finery — made from the finest silk available — felt luxuriously silky, fit our pillows perfectly, offered beautiful nights of sleep and were easy to wash and dry both by hand and in the machine.
Best affordable silk pillowcase: MYK Silk Natural Silk Pillowcase with Cotton Underside ($23.99; amazon.com)
The MYK Silk Natural Silk Pillowcase, featuring lovely silk on one side and white cotton on the other, offered a good fit, restful sleep and for about half the price of the Fishers Finery option — though it’s notably less luxurious-feeling.
Best luxury silk pillowcase: Lunya Washable Silk Pillowcase ($74; lunya.co)
We couldn’t get enough sleeps on the Lunya Washable Silk Pillowcase. Also a silk on one side, cotton on the other option, Lunya’s silk surface case was the most lavish to the touch, and design details made it feel significantly elevated.
Best alarm clock overall: Jall Wooden Digital Alarm Clock ($25; amazon.com)
The Jall Wooden Digital Alarm Clock looks great and has everything you need in an alarm clock. It’s simple to set, read, and use, and can wake you dependably with multiple alarms.
Runner-up: DreamSky Compact Digital Alarm Clock ($18.99; amazon.com)
An easy-to-use alarm clock without any bells and whistles to get in the way, the DreamSky is simple, durable, and highly readable, and will get you out of bed in the morning with a loud beep that isn’t too startling.
Best sunrise alarm clock (and best with radio): Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520 ($99.99; amazon.com)
Able to wake you gently with lights that gradually brighten to mimic the dawn, the Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520 is a great sunrise alarm clock and one of the best all-around alarm clocks we tested, with intuitive programming, a wide range of alarm tones and a radio.
Best alarm clock for heavy sleepers: Sonic Bomb Dual Extra-Loud Alarm Clock With Bed Shaker ($32.07, originally $52.95; amazon.com)
With the most intense, abrasive sound of any alarm we tested, a strobe light, and a vibrating puck that you place under your pillow, the Sonic Bomb can awaken even the heaviest sleepers
Best sound machine overall: Sound+Sleep Mini ($65.63; amazon.com)
The Sound+Sleep Mini contains 48 different sounds, like rain, brooks, fans, ocean sounds, white noise, and many more. The other devices we tested feature some of these soundscapes, but the Mini is one of the only one that has them all. .
The upgrade pick: Hatch Restore ($129.99; amazon.com)
While our overall pick is a classic sound machine, the Hatch Restore resides packs extra features like a large color-changing light on the front, a digital clock display and routines to help you wind down and fall asleep easier.
Let’s get right to our favorite thing about this mask: the adjustable nose wire. Similar to the nose wire in the masks that we have become all too familiar with in the last year, the Mavogel’s nose wire lets you get the perfect light-blocking, lock-in-place fit. Many masks had a slight crack of light around the nose bridge. This mask, though, formed the best seal around the edges, blocking out more light than any other mask we tested.
Picture the pinnacle of social exhaustion: Perhaps, you’ve just spent four hours at a work holiday party, meeting the humans behind a bunch of Zoom squares IRL for the first time. Or, maybe you had a day of reconnecting with family members you haven’t seen in two, time-blurred pandemic years. It would seem that hitting the hay would be the most obvious solution—but once you get into bed, your body seems to say, Not so fast. For introverts, in particular, the draining nature of being social can leave you, paradoxically, chasing sleep.
Trying to get to sleep in that state can require a whole lot more than simply getting into bed; after all, the process of falling asleep is nothing like an on-off switch, biologically, says Dr. Harris. For an introvert, especially, easing your mind into sleep mode is best done with a calming pre-bed ritual. Below, the experts share tips for socially exhausted introverts who want nothing more than to get a good night’s sleep.
It’s especially hard for introverts to sleep after a highly social experience, but these 5 tips can help
1. Create a container for your thoughts.
“Introverts are internal processors,” says psychologist Laurie Helgoe, PhD, author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. “They often take inputs from conversations and process them later, which can mean mulling over what someone said, replaying or continuing a conversation, coming up with a better comeback, and the like.”https://556d592cd02b0abe412f5bc25f63d090.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Journaling can help put a pause to that spiral by providing a space for you to essentially unload all of your thoughts, and, if you’d like, feel free to return to them later—ideally at a time when you’re not trying desperately to get catch precious zzz’s.
2. Talk back to negative self-talk.
In re-assessing a social event (as introverts are wont to do), you may find that certain percolating thoughts devolve into negative or anxious ones. For example, it’s easy to start over-evaluating and hyper-personalizing, says Dr. Dow. “Maybe you start thinking, ‘Was Cindy looking at me weird? I must have done something wrong.’ And as the night goes on, the thoughts can turn more catastrophic in nature, leading to something like, ‘If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I’m going to botch this presentation tomorrow, and if that happens, I could get fired,’ and so on,” he says.https://556d592cd02b0abe412f5bc25f63d090.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
In that case, he suggests employing one of the classic strategies of cognitive behavioral therapy, which is to reconsider thoughts and feelings not as facts but merely as information, which you can choose to disregard. “Access the best parts of yourself to talk back to those inner voices,” he says.
“Because introverts are natural problem-solvers, they can get stuck in focusing on what’s not working,” says Dr. Helgoe. “But a gratitude list can help you balance that problem orientation by reminding you of what is working.” And that, in and of itself, can be incredibly soothing.
4. Practice some non-screen-based relaxation.
While it’s tempting to scroll through Instagram or scan emails in bed to occupy a restless mind, that level of mental stimulation, combined with the melatonin-suppressing blue light, is a recipe for wakefulness. Instead, do anything non-screen-related that feels calming and relaxing, whether that’s reading, knitting, listening to music, or even coloring or doing a simple crossword or jigsaw puzzle, says Dr. Harris. (You can also practice mindfulness meditation, but because this can be challenging to really sink into with an overactive mind, Dr. Harris says it’ll be most beneficial for someone who already has a daytime meditation practice.
If you’re really at a loss for where to start, try connecting with each of the five senses, says Dr. Dow: “Soothe your sense of touch with a bath, your sense of smell with a lavender candle, your sense of sight with dimmed lighting, your sense of hearing with calming music or a meditation track, and your sense of taste with a nighttime tea.”
5. And if you’re tossing and turning, get out of bed.
Trying to make sleep happen often keeps it from, well, happening. So, instead of remaining in bed and trying to will yourself asleep, get up, walk into another room, and return to whatever wind-down exercise you were doing beforehand in dim lighting, says Dr. Harris: “Simply changing what you’re doing and where you’re doing it can often help stop an overactive mind in its tracks.”
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We’ve all had those nights where we inexplicably wake up in the middle of the night with a grumbling belly. Maybe it was that HIIT workout you braved for the first time, your marathon of meetings-slash-evening-errands that left you with little time to eat an adequate dinner, or maybe you were just dreaming about delicious pasta (the best type of reverie).
While you could certainly go forth and eat gobs of Nutella straight from the jar—convenience and tastiness are both extremely key, after all—you don’t need to be an registered dietitian to conclude that the sugar content isn’t exactly a recipe for sound sleep the rest of the night. “High fat and high sugar foods like ice cream and cookies are a double whammy of not helping you sleep well, because fat takes a long time to digest,” says Dawn Blatner, RDN, author of The Superfood Swap. “Giving your gut foods that are difficult to digest distracts your body from sleep, and then sugar causes spikes and crashes of blood sugar and those will interrupt sleep, too.”
Blatner also suggests avoiding alcohol since, even though your nightcap can make you feel sleepy, it will disrupt your sleep cycle later in the night and lead to lower quality sleep. Caffeinated teas or too much of anything liquid should also be consumed in moderation, she adds, as having to use the bathroom can keep you awake.
7 healthy midnight snacks that will help lull you back to sleep
1. Tart Cherries
“Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s internal clock and sleep-wake cycle,” says Blatner. If you can’t find tart cherries at the supermarket, she suggests opting for tart cherry concentrate, which is the super-charged version of tart cherry juice with two tablespoons packing in the equivalent of a whopping 60-plus cherries. Instead of guzzling it (remember that sugar and excessive amounts of liquid can keep you awake), create yourself a little ‘natural’ jello shot before bed. “All you do is mix two tablespoons of tart cherry concentrate with a tablespoon of chia seeds and chill it in the fridge. Try topping it with greek yogurt to combat the tartness,” Blatner says.RELATED STORIES‘I’m a Registered Dietitian, and This Is the One Food I Always…Why Snacking on Hemp Seeds Can Help You Sleep More Soundly
2. Pumpkin Seeds
“Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, and studies have found that magnesium improves insomnia and sleep efficiency,” says Blatner. Almonds, cashews, and peanuts are other good sources of magnesium that all make for ideal healthy midnight snacks.
3. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese contains the amino acid L-tryptophan. “Tryptophan plays a role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s associated with healthy sleep,” says Blatner. “Research has found people who ate cottage cheese about 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed experienced better metabolic health, muscle quality, and overall health than people who didn’t.”https://79dbc014217aa09ddae4500b65493fc3.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
We know it’s no cheesy mozzarella pizza or ricotta cheesecake, but you can optimize your enjoyment of cottage cheese with a sprinkle of cinnamon (which has its own sleep benefits). “You can also try topping it with tahini or sunflower seed butter, which both contain tryptophan as well,” says Blatner.
“Research suggests that the antioxidants and natural serotonin in kiwis can improve both sleep quality and quantity,” says Blatner. Kiwis are naturally sweet and delicious as-is, but you can jazz them up by lightly dipping them in dark chocolate. “Dark chocolate has magnesium, a helpful sleep mineral, but it also has a little caffeine, so go easy on it.”
6. Banana with Peanut Butter
“Foods that contain unsaturated fats, like peanut butter, can help improve serotonin levels and boost satiety to keep you feeling satisfied and full during sleep,” says Carissa Galloway, RDN, a nutrition consultant at Premier Protein. “Eating bananas with peanut butter can also be helpful before bed, as bananas contain magnesium which, as mentioned, help support good sleep.” The combination of bananas plus peanut butter makes for one of the most delicious healthy midnight snacks out there.
7. Chamomile Tea
“There are numerous studies that support the benefits of chamomile tea in promoting a healthy nighttime routine,” says Galloway. Chamomile tea contains flavonoids, which are compounds found in certain foods, including one called apigenin. “Apigenin connects with receptors in our brains to help reduce insomnia and promote a state of steady sleep.”
So when you find yourself wide awake in the wee hours, sip a cup of chamomile tea with a splash of steamed almond milk, or have a batch of Blatner’s chamomile cookies on hand.
All that said, bear in mind that more important than what you eat before bed, is the amount. “Having a large amount of any food will take too much effort for your body to digest instead of resting,” says Blatner. A light nosh of one of the foods recommended here, on the other hand, will send you right into the sweetest of dreams.
If you’ve ever spent a night tossing and turning, you already know how you’ll feel the next day — tired, cranky, and out of sorts. But missing out on the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye nightly does more than make you feel groggy and grumpy.
The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real.
It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk. Science has linked poor slumber with a number of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.
Read on to learn the causes of sleep deprivation and exactly how it affects specific body functions and systems.
In a nutshell, sleep deprivation is caused by consistent lack of sleep or reduced quality of sleep. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis can eventually lead to health consequences that affect your entire body. This may also be caused by an underlying sleep disorder.
Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new thought connections and helps memory retention.
Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life.
Your central nervous system is the main information highway of your body. Sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly, but chronic insomnia can disrupt how your body usually sends and processes information.
During sleep, pathways form between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain that help you remember new information you’ve learned. Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties as well.
You may also find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. The signals your body sends may also be delayed, decreasing your coordination and increasing your risk for accidents.
Sleep deprivation also negatively affects your mental abilities and emotional state. You may feel more impatient or prone to mood swings. It can also compromise decision-making processes and creativity.
If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you could start having hallucinations — seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there. A lack of sleep can also trigger mania in people who have bipolar mood disorder. Other psychological risks include:
While you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances like antibodies and cytokines. It uses these substances to combat foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
Certain cytokines also help you to sleep, giving your immune system more efficiency to defend your body against illness.
Sleep deprivation prevents your immune system from building up its forces. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body may not be able to fend off invaders, and it may also take you longer to recover from illness.
The relationship between sleep and the respiratory system goes both ways. A nighttime breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can interrupt your sleep and lower sleep quality.
As you wake up throughout the night, this can cause sleep deprivation, which leaves you more vulnerable to respiratory infections like the common cold and flu. Sleep deprivation can also make existing respiratory diseases worse, such as chronic lung illness.
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Along with eating too much and not exercising, sleep deprivation is another risk factor for becoming overweight and obese. Sleep affects the levels of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which control feelings of hunger and fullness.
Leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Without enough sleep, your brain reduces leptin and raises ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant. The flux of these hormones could explain nighttime snacking or why someone may overeat later in the night.
A lack of sleep can also make you feel too tired to exercise. Over time, reduced physical activity can make you gain weight because you’re not burning enough calories and not building muscle mass.
Sleep deprivation also causes your body to release less insulin after you eat. Insulin helps to reduce your blood sugar (glucose) level.
Sleep deprivation also lowers the body’s tolerance for glucose and is associated with insulin resistance. These disruptions can lead to diabetes mellitus and obesity.
Sleep affects processes that keep your heart and blood vessels healthy, including those that affect your blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation levels. It also plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair the blood vessels and heart.
People who don’t sleep enough are more likely to get cardiovascular disease. One analysis linked insomnia to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Hormone production is dependent on your sleep. For testosterone production, you need at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is about the time of your first R.E.M. episode. Waking up throughout the night could affect hormone production.
This interruption can also affect growth hormone production, especially in children and adolescents. These hormones help the body build muscle mass and repair cells and tissues, in addition to other growth functions.
The pituitary gland releases growth hormone throughout each day, but adequate sleep and exercise also help the release of this hormone.
The most basic form of sleep deprivation treatment is getting an adequate amount of sleep, typically 7 to 9 hours each night.
This is often easier said than done, especially if you’ve been deprived of precious shut-eye for several weeks or longer. After this point, you may need help from your doctor or a sleep specialist who, if needed, can diagnose and treat a possible sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders may make it difficult to get quality sleep at night. They may also increase your risk for the above effects of sleep deprivation on the body.
The following are some of the most common types of sleep disorders:
To diagnose these conditions, your doctor may order a sleep study. This is traditionally conducted at a formal sleep center, but now there are options to measure your sleep quality at home, too.
If you’re diagnosed with a sleep disorder, you may be given medication or a device to keep your airway open at night (in the case of obstructive sleep apnea) to help combat the disorder so you can get a better night’s sleep on a regular basis.
The best way to prevent sleep deprivation is to make sure you get adequate sleep. Follow the recommended guidelines for your age group, which is 7 to 9 hours for most adults ages 18 to 64.
Other ways you can get back on track with a healthy sleep schedule include:
limiting daytime naps (or avoiding them altogether)
refraining from caffeine past noon or at least a few hours prior to bedtime
going to bed at the same time each night
waking up at the same time every morning
sticking to your bedtime schedule during weekends and holidays
spending an hour before bed doing relaxing activities, such as reading, meditating, or taking a bath
avoiding heavy meals within a few hours before bedtime
refraining from using electronic devices right before bed
exercising regularly, but not in the evening hours close to bedtime
reducing alcohol intake
If you continue to have problems sleeping at night and are fighting daytime fatigue, talk to your doctor. They can test for underlying health conditions that might be getting in the way of your sleep schedule.