The Science of Sleep

 

Sleep disorders affect 1 in 3 people at some stage of their lives and is one of the major reasons why patients see doctors like myself. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, and scientists believe that it will become even more prevalent due to our society’s 24/7 work hard, play hard mentality (1).   

Most people understand the importance of a good night’s sleep, particularly after they’ve experienced some sleepless nights. Research has also shown that sleep significantly affects our metabolism, immune system, brain function and overall mortality (1).   

In order to truly value and prioritize our sleep, it helps to first understand it. Here are 5 sleep facts you need to know: 

 

1. Too Little AND Too Much Sleep Affect Mortality 

While it may seem obvious that not getting enough sleep can negatively affect our health and overall mortality, studies have also shown that getting too much sleep every night isn’t necessarily good either. A meta-analysis found that consistently getting shorter sleep (less than 7 hours) as well as longer sleep (more than 8 hours) every night was associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality (2).  

 

2. Poor Sleep Impairs Antibody Production 

Our sleep has a massive impact on our immune system. A study even found that people who got a good night’s sleep after a single vaccination against hepatitis A, produced twice the number of antigen-specific antibody titers against hepatitis A compared to those who stayed awake the night after getting their vaccination (3). Studies like this highlight how important even one night of sleep is for our system.   

 

3. Sleep Impacts Blood Sugar Metabolism 

Most people attribute poor diet to the development of blood sugar disorders like Type 2 diabetes. While this is a common contributing factor, the effects that sleep has on our blood sugar regulation is rarely discussed. A study found that shorter duration of sleep (less than 5 hours every night) was associated with a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (4). Shorter sleep has been shown to stimulate appetite by lowering levels of leptin (hormone that signals satiety) and raising levels of ghrelin (hormone that signals hunger).  

Researchers were puzzled when they also found in this study that longer duration of sleep (more than 9 hours every night) was also associated with a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It’s unclear exactly why this happens, but suspect that it is likely due to underlying causes like hypothyroidism that affect blood sugar as well.  

 

4. Sleep Can Improve with Meditation 

Meditation has many well-studied benefits including better sleep! A randomized clinical trial found that people who were taught standardized mindfulness awareness practices (MAPs) for 6 weeks experienced improvement in their insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms and fatigue compared to those who were only taught sleep hygiene education (5).  

 

5. Melatonin Production Decreases with Age 

Many people notice changes in their sleep habits as they get older. Many things can affect sleep as we age, but one major factor is the decline in melatonin (6). Melatonin is a hormone made by our brains that regulates our sleep, balances our immune response and can help to combat inflammation in our bodies. For those who don’t produce adequate melatonin, we thankfully have sleep-supporting melatonin supplements like our Tru-Melatonin+ gummies 

 

Take-Home Points 

Sleep is vital for every system in our bodies, and too little or too much sleep can have a negative impact on our health. Thankfully, the more we know, the more we can do to support restful sleep.  

If you’re having trouble sleeping, be sure to talk with your doctor so you can understand and address the underlying cause.  

 

References:  

1) Ferrie J, et al. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2011 Dec; 40(6): 1431 – 1437. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3655374/  

2) Gallicchio L, et al. Journal of Sleep Research. 2009 Jun; 18(2): 148-58. DOI: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19645960/ 

3) Besedovsky L, et al. Pflugers Archive. 2012; 463(1): 121 – 137. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/ 

4) Cappuccio F, et al. Diabetes Care. 2010 Feb; 33(2): 414-420. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2809295/ 

5) Black D, et al. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015; 175(4): 494-501. DOI: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110998 

6) Hardeland Rudiger. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2019 Mar; 20(5): 1223. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6429360/