The importance of sleep

Sleep is important, but Why?

We all know sleep is important, but why is it important? Sleep helps us maintain our body composition, retain memory, regulate hormones, and support our immune function. Body composition is an important metric because poor body composition is associated with so many chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, and several more. Just as our bodies need rest, our brains do too. While our brains never truly rest, they do need that time asleep to catalog our memories, regulate our hormones, and boost our immune functions. How can anything work to its full potential if you only charge it to 50 percent?

Sleep and Body Composition

The correlation between sleep deprivation and obesity has been established for some time. Several factors contribute to this correlation. Lack of sleep leads to an imbalance in leptin and ghrelin, your hunger hormones. Have you ever noticed severe cravings on the days after sleepless nights? Behavior habits commonly linked with poor sleep habits such as an increase in digital media (watching television and scrolling through the internet) promote reduced activity and increased caloric intake, in turn, promoting weight gain. Sleep reduction also spikes the stress hormone cortisol. Increased cortisol reduces muscle recovery and growth. To maintain a healthy body composition, muscle growth and maintenance are imperative.

Sleep and Memory

Sleep plays a large role in memory. Specifically, sleep deprivation results in decreased memory retention. Our brains process and consolidate memory while we sleep, converting short term memory into long term memory. For this reason, sleep is crucial to the developing brain. Quality of sleep greatly impacts learning and brain plasticity.  This is not limited to school-based learning, but is applicable to real life skills and processes. Some telltale cognitive signs that you are not getting enough sleep include lack of alertness, inability to hold a train of thought, irritability, decreased mood, and tiredness.

Sleep and Immune Response

It has been observed that reduced sleep impairs immune functioning by facilitating T-Cell activity. In the current state of the world, immune functioning is on top of everyone’s minds, and of great importance. Disruption in sleep schedules and sleep deprivation can influence your ability to fight infections. Generally, adults are recommended to get 7-9 hours of continuous sleep each night.

Sleep Hygiene

So how do you ensure a good night’s sleep?

  • Make a regular sleep routine and go to bed when you are tired. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. Everything gets better with practice.
  • Don’t go to bed if you are not tired and avoid daytime naps. This strengthens the subconscious association between your bed and sleeping. Don’t use your bed to watch TV or to work – your bed is not your work from home office!
  • Make your sleeping environment as possible. Make sure the room is at a cool temperature. Sleep on a comfortable mattress, with comfortable sheets and pillows. Sleep in a dark room. Some people prefer ambient noise, others prefer silence. If you do prefer ambient noise, make sure it is dull, consistent sounds without pitch changes. A fan or ocean waves work great, as opposed to a TV show or street noise.
  • Avoid stimulants too close to bed. This might seem like a no-brainer, but caffeine, nicotine, and even alcohol can cause problems with a good night’s sleep.
  • Stop watching the clock. Thinking “if I fall asleep now, I’ll get 5 hours of sleep” is a great way to worry yourself to a sleepless night. Keep your eyes off the clock and think of something relaxing with your eyes closed.
  • Keep your eyes off your screens! Cell phones, TV screens, laptops, and all other electronic devices emit a type of “blue light” that affects your ability to go to sleep by suppressing your natural melatonin production. Avoid using these devices within a couple hours of going to sleep for a better night’s sleep. Some devices have settings to reduce blue light emissions and blue light glasses may help reduce exposure as well.
Acosta, M.T. (2019). Sleep, memory and learning. Medicina (B Aires), 79(Suppl 3), 29-32. 
Bayon, V., Leger, D., Gomez-Merino, D., Vecchierini, M.F., & Chennaoui, M. (2014, July 11). Sleep debt and obesity. Annals of Medicine, 46(5), 264-272. 
Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Born, J. (2012, January). Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Archiv: European journal of physiology, 463(1), 121-137. 
Dattilo, M., Antunes, H.K.M., Medeiros, A., Monico Neto, M., Souza, H.S., Tufik, S., & de Mello, M.T. (2011, August). Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses, 77(2), 220-222. 
Kurien, P.A., Chong, S.Y.C., Ptacek, L.J., & Fu, Y.H. (2013, October). Sick and Tired: How molecular regulators of human sleep schedules and duration impact immune function. Current Opinions in Neurobiology, 23(5), 873-879.
Walker, M.P. & Stickgold, R. (2005, April). It's practice, with sleep, that makes perfect: implications of sleep-dependent learning and plasticity for skill performance. Clinics in sports medicine, 24(2), 301-317. 

Maintaining Quality of Life

What is quality of life? More than 3,400 older adults spread over 11 different countries were asked what they considered to affect their quality of life. The sample identified five major categories that they considered to be the greatest impact on their quality of life: autonomy, role and activity, health perception, relationships, and financial security.

Autonomy

This was the number one response. Think about all the things you do today that you don’t usually give a second thought to, like walking to the mailbox, putting laundry detergent in an overhead cabinet, going to the bathroom on your own, showering on your own, standing up from a recliner without assistance … the list goes on and on. People do not want to be a burden on their loved ones and maintain their dignity. So, what can you do to maintain your independence? Strength training! Skeletal muscle decreases as we age. Resistance training has been found to improve muscular fitness and functional performance, even in aging populations. It’s never too late to start.

Role and Activity

This refers to the ability to do the activities you enjoy doing. That’s what life is all about, right? Doing what you love. What do you love to do? Spending time with loved ones, creating art, working, learning … the list goes on. How many of these activities require strength, endurance, or mobility? The activities we enjoy change as we age but is that because we lose the ability to do the things we used to enjoy or because we genuinely change our interests as we age? Exercise increases not only sport performance, but also performance of activities of daily living. Specifically, exercise has been shown to decrease the likelihood of falls in older adults.

Perception of Health

People with fewer symptoms tend to perceive their health in a more positive way. Interestingly, older adults with few symptoms tend to perceive their health more positively than  younger adults. Is this because the older adults are more grateful and appreciative of their health? Are they more educated? Why is your perception of health important to the quality of life? Health complications tend to add a lot of pain, stress, financial hardship, and anxiety to your life. Perceiving yourself as healthy means you’re most likely not experiencing too many negative symptoms and as a result, living a more relaxed and pain-free life.

Relationships

Humans are inherently social creatures. The need for meaningful relationships is crucial to quality of life. Building relationships with friends and family results in better health and can add years to your life. Our social circles tend to shrink as we age, but they become increasingly important. Maintaining these relationships and creating new relationships is key to increased perceived health, social support, and managing disease conditions. Most of these benefits come from the emotional impact of having strong positive relationships.

Financial Security

Financial stress greatly affects quality of life. Not being able to afford medication, treatment, or pain management that often comes with advanced age can be incredibly stressful. Living on an income that may be less than previous income, and being responsible for increased healthcare costs that are associated with an advanced age, add up a lot of financial stress. Now think about trying to afford hobbies you enjoy, vacations with family, and everything else you find important when considering a high-quality life. Therefore, setting yourself up with a solid retirement plan early is important in avoiding the stress of being financially insecure, especially in older age.

Visit our website for information about our precision wellness program to improve and maintain the health of your employees. Our health coaches help to improve health conditions, reducing the dependency for medication, and lowering the incidence of chronic conditions in your population.

Cockerham, W.C., Sharp, K., & Wilcox, J.A. (1983, May). Aging and perceived health status. Journal of Gerontology, 38(3), 349-355. 
Garcia, L.M.R., Arizala, B.A.A., & Garcia, F.J.G. (2018, September-October). The importance of social relationships as a mechanism to improve the health and quality of life of the elderly, from an interdisciplinary perspective. Revista espanola de geriatria y gerontologia, 53(5), 268-273. 
Hurst, C., Weston, K.L., McLaren, S.J., & Weston, M. (2019, January 19). The effects of same-session combined exercise training on cardiorespiratory and functional fitness in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 31(12), 1701-1717.
Sherrington, C., Fairhall, N.J., Wallbank, G.K., Tiedemann, A., Michaleff, Z.A., Howard, K., Clemson, L., Hopewell, S., & Lamb, S.E. (2019, January). Exercise for preventing falls in older people living in the community. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2019(1), CD012424.
Van Leeuwen, K.M., Van Loon, M.S., Van Nes, F.A., Bosmans, J.E., De Vet, H.C.W., Ket, J.C.F., Widdershoven, G.A.M., & Ostelo, R.W.J.G. (2019, March 8). What does quality of life mean to older adults? A thematic synthesis. PloS One, 14(3), e0213263. 

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure that circulating blood places on blood vessels within the body. This pressure is vital to the way in which the body functions. Within our bodies, blood flows from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure. Blood carries nutrients such as proteins, iron, fats, sugar, etc., which all organs and muscles require to function. Without a difference in blood pressure, these nutrients would not reach every part of the body.

A ‘normal’ blood pressure is 120/80. The top number represents the systolic blood pressure, or the pressure within blood vessels when the heart is beating. The bottom number represents the diastolic blood pressure, or the pressure within blood vessels when the heart is at rest. Even though the 120/80 reading is considered ‘normal,’ many Americans have numbers that are consistently above this range. Today, 75 million Americans have high blood pressure, or 1 in 3. This is especially scary, as high blood pressure has been termed the ‘silent killer.’ This is due to the serious nature of conditions that can come with this condition despite the lack of warning signs. This becomes even more evident in the fact that 20% of people with high blood pressure do not know it.

High blood pressure can lead to a variety of serious conditions. Seven out of 10 people who suffer their first heart attack have high blood pressure. A stroke is another possible consequence of high blood pressure, with 8 out of 10 stroke patients suffering from it. It does not end there though, as 7 out of 10 people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure. What can be deemed even more scary is the fact that only 54% of individuals with high blood pressure have it under control.

Luckily, blood pressure can often be controlled if people are in regular contact with medical providers. There are a multitude of medications that can lower blood pressure. Our corporate onsite clinic staffs, which include nurse practitioners, have the power to write prescriptions for this medication. They will work with you personally and with our staffed health coaches to develop a lifestyle to control blood pressure. The main thing is to be aware and have a plan, all of which our providers can help with.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2018, April 5). High Blood Pressure. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm. 

Digestive Health

Digestion refers to the process in which your body gets nutrients from your food. When digestion isn’t occurring how it’s supposed to, you can experience abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, and irregular bowel movements. Digestive distress can be a one-time event or it can be a chronic problem.

Digestive distress can be very uncomfortable and disrupting to daily life. Some ways to avoid any digestive distress include:

  • Eating several servings of fruits and vegetables per day. You should aim to have at least 7 servings throughout the day. Fruits and vegetables have a high fiber content, as well as essential vitamins, minerals, and prebiotics that keep your digestive system healthy.
  • Instead of eating processed grain products like white bread or pasta, opt for the whole-grain products. These grain products contain more fiber.
  • Choose chicken or fish for the main dish – highly processed meats and red meats like pork, beef, and lamb can increase your risk of experiencing some digestive distress.
  • Eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D – these vitamins can help you prevent digestive issues. You can get calcium from milk, tofu, and yogurt, among other sources. Taking a vitamin D supplement may be the easiest way to get the amount you need – and make sure you have some exposure to sunlight, as sunlight helps your body to absorb vitamin D!
  • Make sure you get enough exercise. Try to get around 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity three or more days per week.

You may be at a highest risk for digestive problems if you are either over or underweight. Some of the chronic digestive diseases include acid reflux, GERD, gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome, and hemorrhoids. If you are concerned that you may be suffering from one of these conditions or just want general advice on how to improve your digestive health, seeing your healthcare provider or a health coach could help.

HealthLine. (2016, March 21). Digestive Health Basics. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health.