We lead extremely busy lifestyles attempting to fit longer working days, exercise and time with our families, all in just 24 hours. It seems that the easiest thing to do is just to reduce time we spent sleeping, as we don’t always notice any negative effects from sleeping just an hour or so less at night. However, latest research increasingly indicates that just a few hours less of down time at night can have dramatic negative consequences on our bodies.
During the sleep hundreds of genes activate that are involved in restoration of the body and repair of metabolic pathways. Deep sleep leads to increase in production of growth hormone, which is responsible for stimulating cell growth, reproduction, regeneration and increased metabolism.
Lack of sleep can lead to increased production of stress hormone cortisol, which in turn can slow down healing and impair normal cell regeneration.
Recent study results show that not adequate sleep can elevate body’s concentrations of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and decrease the levels of the satiety hormone leptin. In turn these hormonal changes can make weight management harder to control, for example shift workers find it hard to follow a healthy nutrition plan.
There is evidence that sleep helps brain to process information and lay down memories during deep sleep. When we are awake we are constantly bombarded with information and certain neural circuits in our brain can start to lose their sensitivity, process called downregulation. Eventually we start to feel lethargy, tiredness, and slower reaction times. During sleep those circuits can rest and they upregulate, restoring their sensitivity and efficiency.
So how much sleep is enough?
Generally between 7-8 hours of sleep a night is recommended but each individual has different sleep needs and patterns. Consequently, each person needs to make their own judgement call on how much sleep is adequate based on how their body respond with different duration of sleep at night.