Nixing the Tossing and Turning Can Add Life to Your Years

In 2016, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one third of American adults are sleep deprived.

Anna Almendrala at The Huffington Post, in reporting on these findings, notes that 83.6 million Americans get fewer than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. “That’s 83.6 million sleepy people driving on roads, walking on streets and generally yawning through their lives,” she writes.

While this sleep problem certainly means more exhaustion around the country, it also spells out a greater health problem. Not getting enough shut-eye can lead to more signs of aging and serious health problems.

How Many Zs Should You Get?

Our ideal duration of sleep varies throughout the course of our lives. As adults, we should be getting at least seven hours of sleep per night.

Working on behalf of the National Sleep Foundation, Kaitlyn Whiton and fellow researchers recently updated the group’s general recommendations for how much sleep a person needs.

Based on their age, healthy persons should receive the following amount of sleep within a given 24-hour period:

  • Newborns need 14 to 17 hours of sleep.
  • Infants need 12 to 15 hours of sleep.
  • Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep.
  • Preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours of sleep.
  • School-aged children need 9 to 11 hours of sleep.
  • Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
  • Young adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
  • Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
  • Older Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

While the amount of sleep required changes most often in childhood, clocking enough Z’s is just as important for adults as it is for growing children.

Is It Possible to Sleep Too Much?

If you’re a big fan of turning in early and catching as many hours of sleep as possible, you may not have trouble getting to seven restful hours every night. However, that doesn’t mean you have perfect sleeping habits. Snoozing for too long can indicate an underlying problem.

Damien Léger et al. at the Sorbonne in Paris found that sleeping more than 10 hours per day correlated with an increased chance of having a psychiatric disorder and being overweight.

Furthermore, sleeping for more than 10 hours could be a sign that you’re not sleeping soundly at night. Eric J. Olson, MD of The Mayo Clinic writes that poor sleep quality is one of the many factors that can affect how much sleep you really need.

“If your sleep is frequently interrupted, you're not getting quality sleep,” Dr. Olson writes. “The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity.”

All that low-quality sleep could seriously impact your health, too. Amerisleep’s Rosie Osmun notes studies that have linked oversleeping to impaired brain function, dementia and chronic inflammation. If you want to live a long, healthy life, it’s important to strike the right balance with your sleep.

Sleep and Skin Health

“Getting your beauty sleep” is more than an cliche. Adequate sleep greatly impacts your skin’s health and appearance.

Karen Appold at Everyday Health reports that several studies link getting plenty of rest with glowing skin. The relationship between sleep and beauty has several layers. First, not getting enough sleep worsens any underlying skin conditions. Acne, dermatitis and other inflammatory conditions—which people often buy expensive products to manage—are sometimes symptoms of sleep deprivation. And without rest, the body’s immune system creates even more inflammation.

“Increased inflammation in the body throws off the body's ability to regulate the immune system, which leads not only to getting sick more often, but also to flares of immune-related skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema,” Appold writes. “Psoriasis is not just a skin disease; it's also an indicator of body inflammation.”

Sleep helps your skin in plenty of other ways, too. Dermatologist Sonoa Au, MD says that time in bed helps give your skin a break from it’s daily stress. “At night, there’s no UV damage, no environmental stresses, pollutions, no cigarette smoke, no big changes in temperature, and you’re not wearing makeup,” Dr. Au explains. “All of these things happening at night mean your skin has more time to rest and rejuvenate.”

If you’re concerned about wrinkles, hitting the hay on time may help with prevention. Collagen is a vital part of rejuvenating skin, but cortisol—the stress hormone—breaks collagen down faster than it would otherwise. When you don’t sleep, your body produces more cortisol, which then leaves your collagen levels depleted.

Sydney Whalen at cosmetic surgery company Zwivel details a study that links lack of sleep to fine lines, wrinkles, dark circles under the eyes and other signs of aging. In that study, the researchers examined 30 women after each had gotten eight hours of sleep for several nights in a row. Then, each participant’s sleep duration was cut to six hours. After five nights of diminished sleep, “the subjects had twice the number of wrinkles, dark circles under the eyes and 3/4 more brown spots.”

Sleep and Weight Gain

If you want to lose weight, or even remain at your current weight, it’s important to get the right amount of sleep. Scientists have long understood that poor sleep affects weight gain. However, a study published in 2016 shed some light on how those effects play out at the molecular level.

Tianna Hicklin, PhD, writes about this study which compared how participants reacted to variation in sleep levels during two four-night blocks of time. For the first four nights of the study, participants ate a strictly regulated diet and got a healthy amount of sleep—8.5 hours. After four-week break, the participants returned for another four-day stretch during which their diets were regulated, but this time their sleep was restricted to 4.5 hours.

The results were unsurprising: Participants ate more and were prone to snacking on junk food when they were tired.

Blood samples taken during the study help reveal why this was the case—and the conclusions are fascinating.

Researchers found that in the blood samples taken from when participants received too little sleep, there were “altered endocannabinoid levels—chemical signals that affect appetite and the brain’s reward system.”

Note the root word “cannabinoid.” These are the same chemicals that make people hungry after they consume marijuana. And these endocannabinoid (eCB) levels were higher in participants’ blood streams after four days of poor sleep.

Dr. Erin Hanlon at the University, one of the study’s lead researchers, tells Hicklin that this is one way people gain weight when they sleep poorly. “If you're sleep deprived, your hedonic drive for certain foods gets stronger, and your ability to resist them may be impaired. So you are more likely to eat it. Do that again and again, and you pack on the pounds.”

In other words, sleep deprivation gives you the munchies.

This Is Your Brain on Too Little Sleep

Mastering the aging process is not only about looking and feeling young, it’s also about keeping your mind sharp and healthy. Losing sleep can hurt your mental health and cognitive abilities in alarming ways.

Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA, points out that sleep is how your brain builds neurons, which carry information between nerve cells and help you think. If you don’t get the sleep you need, the neurons don’t form and you may have trouble recalling things. Furthermore, the lack of functioning neurons can make your reaction times dwindle. That’s why tired drivers are likelier to get into accidents.

On a longer timeline, diminished sleep can have severe effects. In 2014, the University of Helsinki’s Tiina Paunio and others found that people who experience sleep disturbances are more likely to develop depression later in life.

The study’s team started their research by looking at self-reported patient sleep data from 1975–1981, later comparing it with instances of depression a decade later. It turned out that poor sleep correlated with a 2.5-fold increase in experiencing the general symptoms of depression.

The link between poor sleep and mental illness is present in our golden years, as well. In 2017, Jessica L. Hartos and a team of researchers from the University of North Texas published a study in which they found that women older than 65 were less likely to have mental illness when they slept the recommended amount each night. Those who slept too little had a 66-percent higher chance of developing mental illness, while those who overslept had a 26-percent higher chance than those who were able to stick to the recommended amount of sleep.

Tips for Better Rest

There are several ways you can clean up your sleep habits.

The first way is to limit alcohol consumption—or nix it altogether. Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director at The London Sleep Centre, says while alcohol can make people fall asleep more quickly, it negatively impacts the quality of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, particularly during the second half of the night. As a result, drinking alcohol makes for nights of poor, unrestful sleep.

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, Dr. Michael Breus recommends an evening workout to get better rest. Not only can exercise improve the amount of sleep you receive, it can also improve the quality.

If you’re not feeling up for a workout, try meditation instead. University of Southern California’s David S. Black, PhD, MPH, and fellow researchers found that mindfulness meditation can significantly improve sleeping patterns among older adults.

Of course, starting a new practice like this can be difficult. If you’re not sure how to start meditating, try downloading apps like Calm and Headspace—these can help introduce you to meditation and help you schedule in and structure out a regular practice.

When Counting Sheep Isn’t Enough, Consider a New Kind of Sleep Supplement

Are you struggling to sleep well even though you live a healthy, active life and follow all the expert advice in the books? Maybe it’s time to try something new.

Our unique VitaYears™ Sleep Support Supplement is specially formulated to provide the help you need. While one of its key ingredients is melatonin—which has been shown to help regulate sleep cycles—it goes above and beyond your average melatonin supplement. It also contains an ingredient called Venetron®—shown to calm the body, alleviate anxiety and reduce the symptoms of insomnia that disturb late-night sleep cycles—as well as GABA. Taken together, GABA and Venetron® have been shown to help people fall asleep quickly and induce deeper sleep.

Getting in the right amount of sleep, can help you optimize all aspects of your health—the physical, the mental and the emotional. Commit to improving your sleep today to help make the rest of your life the best of your life.

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