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What can we say about sleep that today’s clickbait and info-tainment culture hasn’t already hammered into our subconscious? Collectively, Americans know the consequences of poor sleep, and yet our culture puts a high value on the concept of the “grind,” the constant hustle in the name of success and wealth. We seek to be the tireless workhorse with an endless amount of energy so that sleep seems extraneous. Those who survivethrive, evenon minimal amounts of sleep tend to get pats on the back. Conversely, those who sleep a luxurious 9-10 hours a night are shamed into thinking it is an overindulgence. 

Is it an overindulgence, though? More than 1/3 of Americans do not get enough sleep, defined as anything less than 7 hours a night. So what do less than 7 hours a night get you? Increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and mental/psychological stress. 

And even still, the increased risk of these unappealing conditions does not tell the whole story. Worse is what insufficient sleep does in the immediate term. This includes a lack of alertness and impaired motor skills – a nasty side effect achieved by losing 1.5 hours of sleep. Irritability, a higher likelihood of getting in a car accident, and less socializing and exercise are also immediate near-term symptoms. And this is all before we get into the unpleasant “aesthetic” side effects you get from poor sleep; premature aging, wrinkles, dark circles, increased levels of cortisol (a nasty hormone that increases belly fat and breaks down collagen, the protein that keeps skin elastic and smooth). All in all, pretty bad!  

The takeaway here is that no adult in modern American life benefits from less sleep than the recommended 7 to 9 hours, regardless of what our cultural expectations would have us believe. Still not convinced? Below, we will parse out why the importance of sleep for health overall should be top of mind. 

What is the Importance of Sleep?

Our bodies operate in rhythms; the circadian rhythm eases us into sleep mode, lulling us into a state of calm as bedtime approaches. Many biological processes happen during sleep: The brain stores new information, cells communicate and repair, and our body releases molecules like hormones and proteins. Sleep also provides insurance for your body; the better your sleep, the less likely you will overwork or injure yourself. Sleeping, to put it bluntly, equals healing. 

How Sleep Supports the Immune System

That brings us to the immune system, which has a bidirectional relationship with sleep. This vast, complex network of the human body is particularly vulnerable to the effects of poor or limited sleep. Our immune system protects us from the pathogens we encounter in our everyday environment in natural and adaptive ways. Meaning we have the immune system we are born with, and we also have the immune system we acquire over time as our bodies interact with the world). We also have ways of boosting our immune system thanks to modern supplementation. 

Sleep is the backbone of both innate and adaptive immunity. Research has shown that the immune system employs its most vital actions during sleep. Cytokines, the proteins that induce white blood cell activity, are at their most active during sleep. These cytokines are associated with inflammation activity, stealing the body’s innate and adaptive immune function, as it works to heal and repair the body while you are fast asleep. Much like the body catalogs memory and data during deep sleep, it helps the immune system catalog and fortifies itself. 

Researchers have noticed this interaction, and while there is no definitive consensus as to why this seems to happen primarily during sleep, a few theories have surfaced – one of which being that the body undertakes these processes during sleep because of the impediments they could inflict on our waking life activities. 

Sleep and Athletic Performance 

The importance of good sleep hygiene for athletes or fitness enthusiasts is essential. The sleep process helps heal the body and provide support for our immune systems, but it also shores up cognitive function, a must-have for any competitive athlete. Studies that involved young athletes saw that an extension of sleep to 10 hours per night had a marked, measurable effect on performance, strategy, and speed. Unfortunately, an inverse relationship exists with athletic performance, with poor sleep resulting in decreased accuracy, delayed reflexes, and increased risk for injury.  

Sleep and Test Taking

Even something as specific as a final exam can be affected by poor sleep habits. It’s not even enough to get one good night of sleep before a big test; consistency is what matters. In one study, students were provided Fitbits to measure their sleep schedules. This study concluded that sleeping poorly during the week while the material is meant to synthesize and absorb is enough to cause mediocre exam scores. That is not all of the stories either; the results of this study showed how these effects were worse for males than females. 

These same studies showed that a whopping 25% of the variances in test scores and performance could be directly attributed to differences in sleep. 

Sleep’s effect on your weight

How sleep affects body composition

Sleep can have a significant effect on body composition. This is because sleep directly affects hormones in your body that contribute to both muscle growth and muscle loss, specifically testosterone and cortisol. 

Testosterone is needed to encourage muscle development. Peak testosterone production occurs during your sleep hours. So if you are losing sleep, you are also depriving yourself of testosterone production time. According to the American Urological Association, feeling tired and fatigued is also a symptom of low testosterone. 

Sleep, and the lack of sleep, also have a significant effect on the hormone called cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. Cortisol’s catabolic (muscle-reducing) effect is designed to break down tissue – including muscle tissue – to give the body the energy it needs to deal with whatever stressful situation your body has to deal with. 

How lack of sleep can make you fat

Sleep deprivation is also a significant risk factor for weight gain and obesity. People who sleep too little exhibit altered levels of the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate feelings of hunger and satiety. When you do not get adequate sleep, the body makes more ghrelin and less leptin, leaving you hungry and increasing your appetite. Consequently, we tend to eat more significant portions and consume more calories. One study of over 1,000 people found that those who slept for short durations had 14.9% higher ghrelin levels and 15.5% lower leptin levels than those who got adequate sleep.

Another 2008 sleep study concluded that short sleep duration increased the likelihood of obesity by 89% in children and 55% in adults.

Metabolic Influences

Metabolism is the chemical process in which our bodies convert the food we eat into the energy needed to survive. All of our collective activities, from breathing to exercising and everything in between, are part of metabolism. While activities like exercise can temporarily increase metabolism, sleep cannot. Metabolism slows about 15% during sleep, reaching its lowest level in the morning.

Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation (due to self-induction, insomnia, untreated sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders) commonly leads to metabolic deregulation. Poor sleep is associated with increased oxidative stress, glucose intolerance (a precursor to diabetes), and insulin resistance. 

How poor sleep affects the brain/mind

Lack of sleep alters your brain functions, making it more challenging to make healthy choices and resist tempting foods. This is because sleep deprivation can dull activity in the brain’s frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is in charge of decision-making and self-control. In addition, it appears that the brain’s reward centers are more stimulated by food when you are sleep-deprived. So while you might be able to avoid comfort food cravings when you are well-rested, your sleep-deprived brain may have trouble making healthy decisions. 

In other words, after a night of poor sleep, you will likely have a more challenging time practicing self-control.

Sleep hygiene

Phones/screen time

Over the past two decades, newer technologies like smartphones and video gaming systems have increased our time in front of screens. Unlike television screen use, which is passive, these devices have interactive features that are more stimulating.

Electronic back-lit devices like cell phones, tablets, and computers emit short-wavelength enriched light, also known as blue light. This light has been shown to reduce or delay the natural production of melatonin in the evening and decrease feelings of sleepiness. Blue light can also reduce the amount of time you spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, two stages of the sleep cycle that are vital for cognitive functioning. Therefore, you should avoid computers, smartphones, and other blue light-emitting devices in the hours leading up to bedtime. Specialty glasses may also help reduce exposure to blue light. 

Your bed

You are much more likely to get better sleep if your bedroom feels restful and comfortable. However, while it might be tempting to use your bed for reading, working, or watching TV, it is essential to use your bed for sleep only. Following this rule will strengthen your body and mind’s association between your bedroom as a place of rest and intimacy.

Having books, exercise equipment, phones, and computers in the bedroom can distract the mind and condition the body to regard the bedroom as a place of activity instead of rest.

Establishing clear lines between where you work (or do other activities) and where you sleep is crucial to good sleep hygiene.

Irregular sleep times, sleep cycles

A healthy adult’s recommended amount of sleep is seven to nine hours of rest per night. However, it is not only duration but the consistency of our sleep habits that impact our overall health. In a 2019 sleep study, researchers discovered that fluctuating amounts of sleep and irregular bedtimes and wake-up times put people at an increased risk for obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar, among other health problems.

Insufficient and irregular sleep is prevalent. The demands from everyday life and work may also affect why we are not sleeping at regular times or getting less sleep. Either way, maintaining regularity in your sleep schedule is crucial to a healthy lifestyle.

Melatonin

Melatonin, often referred to as the sleep hormone, is a central part of the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Its production is increased with evening darkness, promoting healthy sleep and helping to regulate our circadian rhythm. In addition, this hormone is responsible for letting your body know when it is time to get some rest. Regarding sleep, your melatonin level starts to increase about 2 hours before you sleep. It also helps establish the conditions for sleep, as your core body temperature begins to decrease slightly around this time. Melatonin has also become a popular, commercially-available supplement among people having trouble falling asleep.

Research suggests that melatonin plays other vital roles in the body beyond sleep. However, these effects are not fully understood.

CBD

Everybody needs quality sleep for optimal health and well-being. Preliminary research indicates that CBD might be something people can try to help them sleep better. CBD sleep products can be an alternative sleep aid by combining high-quality CBD and melatonin with other natural sleep-inducing ingredients. 

In a 2019 study, participants were given 25 mg of CBD in capsule form. After the first month, sleep improved 66 percent among the participants who indicated trouble sleeping. The results suggest that CBD decreased sleep difficulties in many of the participants. 

Another 2018 study noted a fair amount of evidence to support the claim that CBD can help manage pain. In addition, the researchers note that by reducing chronic pain, CBD can improve sleep.

Consumers should consult a healthcare professional before taking CBD for sleep, as it may interact with other medications they may be taking.

It Is Never Too Late To Start

No human being can do it all, including having a flawless sleep schedule, especially for those of us who have kids to raise or high-pressure careers. That said, making a plan is about the best thing you can do. As we discussed in the toplines of this blog, sleep is important to so much of our body’s daily functions and performances; it is worth trying to come as close to healthy habits as you possibly can. 

Start by committing to healthier routines, allotting one hour before bed without screens, and investing in soft mood lighting to keep your body’s circadian rhythm consistent. Then, to avoid inundation of unwanted hormones like cortisol and ghrelin, try to streamline your sleep schedule so that you are not merely living for the weekend, catching up on lost hours on Saturday and Sunday only to revert right back to poor habits once Monday creeps back up. 

Another way to give yourself some assistance is by trying PureKana’s CBD gummies, particularly those tailored for issues like this. Our Sleep-Aid gummies are vegan, equipped with 25 mg of CBD per gummy, and feature other healthy sleep-support components like Valerian root, chamomile, hops, and melatonin. While not a cure, our edible sleep aid can be the cherry on top of a new lifestyle equipped with the energy and focus you need to get through the day. 

References

Effect of Sleep Extension on the Subsequent Testosterone, Cortisol and Prolactin Responses to Total Sleep Deprivation and Recovery

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26647769/

Is too little sleep a cause of weight gain?

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sleep-and-weight-gain/faq-20058198

Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/

Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2398753/

Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619301/

Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929498/

Why screen time can disrupt sleep

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181127111044.htm

Cross-sectional and Prospective Associations of Actigraphy-Assessed Sleep Regularity With Metabolic Abnormalities: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2019/05/21/dc19-0596

Melatonin: What You Need To Know

https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know

Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature

https://www.med.upenn.edu/cbti/assets/user-content/documents/s11920-017-0775-9.pdf

Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/

Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6277878/

Centers for Disease Control

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.htmlhttps://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

Sleep and Immune System Crosstalk

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30920354/

How Sleep Affects Athletic Performance

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity/athletic-performance-and-sleep

Good Sleep Habits…

https://www.edweek.org/education/good-sleep-habits-are-better-than-a-good-nights-sleep-for-test-performance-study-finds/2020/01

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