Sleep and health: how does sleep quality affect the body?

Not being able to extract resources, learn new things, build relationships, and remain vigilant - that's our daily sleep fee. Evolution must have good reason to make us spend a third of our lives unconscious. What happens to our bodies when we sleep, where does the lack of sleep lead to, what factors prevent us from sleeping and what factors, on the contrary, contribute to a good and healthy sleep? 


Five precious cycles 

Sleep includes several stages, alternating with each other during the night. After falling asleep, the person is immersed in a "slow" sleep without dreams, including three stages: as they occur, the body becomes more relaxed and brain activity decreases. "Slow" sleep is up to 80% of the total sleep time, during this period, intensive recovery processes are underway, tissues are renewed, and metabolic products are removed, including from the brain. Neurobiologists believe that "slow" sleep is also a period when information learned during the day is remembered: moving "files" from short-term storage to long-term storage. 

The last stage of slow sleep is followed by a phase of "fast" sleep accompanied by rapid movement of the eyeballs. An electroencephalogram records a surge in brain activity. It is believed that the exchange of information between consciousness and subconsciousness takes place during this period.Usually the first phase of "fast" sleep lasts no more than five minutes, and the duration of the last phase can reach hours. 

Complete sleep, which provides maximum physical and mental recovery, should include five cycles of slow and rapid sleep alternation - it is necessary that the total time of sleep is not less than seven to eight hours. Today, however, many socially active people spend no more than six hours of sleep, and according to some research centers, every year there are more and more people who sleep three times a week and more often than not less than five hours a day. 

What does sleep deprivation lead to? 

  • Early death. Studies at Duke University have shown that sleep deprivation increases the risk of dying from various causes by 15%, while scientists at Warwick University have found that sleep, which lasts less than seven hours a day, increases the likelihood of dying from heart disease by a factor of 1,7. 
  • Metabolism disorders. A study conducted by scientists from the University of Uppsala showed that even a short-term sleep deficit "includes" genes that affect metabolism, contributing to the redistribution of fat and muscle atrophy. Sleep deprivation also excites the cannabioid receptors, which leads to appetite stimulation and overeating;
  • Cardiovascular diseases: lack of sleep reduces the level of proteins that regulate the genes that are responsible for the health of vessels. Regular sleep deprivation doubles the risk of coronary heart disease and increases the likelihood of heart failure by 55%;

  • Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The brain's glymphatic system is activated during sleep, which is responsible for the removal of metabolic products from the brain: their accumulation is one of the reasons for the deposition of toxic proteins that damage neurons. Scientists from the University of Washington have found that even one restless night can start the brain processes of accumulation of brain-damaging proteins. 

  • Memory impairment. Specialists from the University of Wisconsin have established: the connection between neurons weakened during sleep - it is necessary to assimilate new information. In addition, during sleep, the brain translates the information into a "section" of long-term memories. Therefore, in case of insomnia, a person quickly forgets what he or she has already learned and cannot remember the new information. 

  • Sleep disturbances affect the work of all organs and cells: the immune system deteriorates, children's growth and adult tissue repair processes suffer, social skills suffer, the risk of cancer increases, etc. 

What factors do affect on sleep? 

Binge watching. It is about those who like to "accumulate" series and then watch them at the same time. Scientists from the University of Michigan (USA) have found that people who prefer marathon-viewing, suffer not only the amount of sleep, but also its quality. This type of viewers complain that even if they manage to break away from watching and lie down in time, the thought of the series prevents them from falling asleep. And this effect can last several days or even weeks after the end of the viewing, adversely affecting the quality of sleep and waking up. 

Blue light of gadgets. A Harvard study found that blue light from computers, telephones, televisions, etc. penetrates the brain, disrupts melatonin production and "knocks out" biorhythms. Therefore, it is important to stop contact with gadgets at least one hour before sleep. Also, scientists advise to remove the computer and TV from the bedroom, as well as not to leave the phone charging: flashing indicators also have a negative impact on the quality of sleep. 

Mad keen on gadgets. Scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurobiology in London have conducted research with over 125,000 children, the average age of whom was 14 years. It turned out that schoolchildren with unlimited access to gadgets fall asleep worse, they also suffer from sleep quality (restless, intermittent), they are more sleepy during the day compared to children whose parents regulate access to multimedia devices. Sleep disturbances did not depend on whether children took the phone to bed or not. 

Alcohol and nicotine. Scientists at the University of Florida have conducted research that shows that drinking alcohol or smoking at least one cigarette less than four hours before bedtime reduces its duration by an average of 42 minutes. It has also been shown that a drunk person falls asleep more quickly, but sleeps more superficially, anxiously than in a sober state. 

Spicy and heavy food. Consumption of spicy foods promotes active secretion of gastric juice, which can lead to heartburn, throwing hydrochloric acid into the esophagus, discomfort. Also, some spices, such as red pepper, increase body temperature, - as a result of the process of "self-cooling", which is launched in the body before bedtime, requires more time and effort. It also has a negative effect on falling asleep of food rich in proteins and fat: such products reduce the brain's sensitivity to orexine neuropeptide, which plays an important role in the regulation of sleep. In addition, digestion slows down by half in the sleep, so products requiring long "processing" remain in the digestive tract for much longer. As a result, the sleep will be superficial and intermittent, which will lead to a feeling of "breaking" after waking up.  

What helps you to fall asleep? 

Exercise. The head of the Sleep Center at Johns Hopkins University claims that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise during the day significantly improve the quality of sleep. It is important not to exercise immediately before bedtime: the release of endorphins is similar to the effects of morning shower on the body and brain, and it leads to an arousal that prevents sleep. On the contrary, training one and a half hours before bedtime will have a positive effect on the process of falling asleep: during aerobic exercises the body temperature rises, and after 60-90 minutes it decreases, resulting in a person begins to feel drowsiness. Sleep also improves strength training during the day: it helps to "adjust" the biological clock, which has a positive effect on the quality of sleep. 

Yoga is perfectly suits for exercise before bedtime: it has a positive effect not only on exercise, but also on meditation: focusing on the current moment helps to stop worrying about problems and tune in to a full sleep. 

Three asanas that are useful to do before going to bed: 

  • From a sitting position with your legs crossed, raise your arms up and lean forward slowly so that your arms are on the floor. This exercise relieves the strain on the neck and back;
  • Lying on the floor, pull both knees up to the chest and stay in this position, watching your breath, slowly swaying from side to side. This exercise relieves the load off your feet;

  • Lie on your back with your arms and legs straight and your hands up. Breathe slowly and evenly, focusing on the sensations in the body, to relax as much as possible. 

Complex carbohydrates. Scientists advise to include complex carbohydrates, for example, cereals: oatmeal, buckwheat, barley, etc. - Vegetable salads, pasta made of hard flour, cut bread. Studies have shown that these products are not only easy to digest without a long-term feeling of heaviness in the stomach, but also help to increase serotonin levels. Which, in turn, transforms into melatonin, increasing the feeling of drowsiness. 

A hot bath. Scientists from the University of Texas have found that if an hour and a half before bedtime to take a bath with a water temperature of 40-42 °C, it will be possible to fall asleep, on average, by eight minutes faster, increase the duration of the slow sleep phases, during which the brain rested as much as possible. Experts attribute this effect to the fact that the body cools down after the thermal treatment, and it causes drowsiness. 

 The bedroom in order. Ideally, the bedroom should only have things to do with sleeping: experts do not recommend using this room for sports, watching TV or even reading. It is also important to maintain order, clean, avoid dirty things, make up the bed every morning, and straighten only before bedtime. Like dressing up, it's a kind of ritual that helps you get ready to go to sleep. 

A flashlight next to the bed or a dim night light: even if you had to get up at night, contact with bright light will prevent you from falling asleep again, so it is recommended to use devices with local or soft, diffuse light. 


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