Most people are aware that it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, so they are prepared for the challenges of the coming day, whether that be for adults going to work, youngsters going to school, or toddlers who are undergoing dramatic physical and mental development. However, getting a good night’s sleep is also very important for your health.
How sleep affects heart health
A study conducted by the University of Chicago determined that there was a connection between shortened sleep and an increased incidence of calcium deposits in coronary arteries. This in turn is a pretty accurate indication that coronary artery disease will follow. Shortened sleep is defined as a period of time significantly less than the recommended eight hours; usually six hours or less.
Conditions resulting from lack of sleep
In addition to the cardiovascular impact described above, there are a whole host of other conditions which may result from inadequate sleep over a prolonged period of time. Over the past 50 years, Americans have logged almost two hours of sleep less than they did in the middle of the 20th century, which is a disturbing trend in terms of overall health of the population.
Obesity is one of the conditions which is closely associated with a lack of sleep, and there’s a sound chemical reason for that. With inadequate sleep, the levels of leptin in your body are decreased, and since leptin is responsible for making you feel full, you either never feel full or you have to eat a lot more to reach that level. On the flip side of that coin, insufficient sleep also increases the amount of ghrelin released in your body, and ghrelin is responsible for making you feel hungry.
Scientific research supports the notion that inadequate sleep has much the same effect on your body of being drunk, especially in how it affects your thought processes and your body’s reflexes. It can make you very dangerous on the road, and it can cause you to make a whole slew of poor decisions that you wouldn’t make if you were completely refreshed.
Prolonged lack of sleep can also have a major impact on testosterone levels in males, producing an effect roughly the equivalent of aging 10 or 15 years. Since testosterone is responsible for gaining strength, muscle mass, bone mass, and the quality of your sex life, a deficiency of testosterone can significantly degrade your quality of life.
How much sleep is enough?
Even though eight hours is generally used as the rule of thumb for how much sleep people need, there are a number of factors which can influence that number up or down. For instance, your age and your individual need are important factors. Sleep needed changes over time and adults, generally require less sleep than teenagers and infants. Below is a general guideline for how much sleep you should be getting based on your age:
- Adults= 7-9 hours
- Teenagers and school age children= 9 -12 hours
- Preschoolers and toddlers= 11-14 hours
- Babies= 12-15 hours
- Newborns= 14-17 hours