Practicing good sleep hygiene is important for both physical and mental health. It’s also common knowledge that skipping sleep is bad for your health.
After all, we are all familiar with the horror of surviving the day after a sleepless night. But did you know that the latest research shows that a lack of sleep could actually shorten your life?
The link between sleep and longevity
According to a wide-scale cohort study among British civil servants, lifespan is negatively affected by chronic sleep deprivation.
The study participants included 10,308 white-collar British civil servants who were clinically examined and asked to complete a questionnaire about their lifestyle and sleep habits.
The researchers followed up the participants after 17 years and found that “a decrease in sleep duration among those regularly sleeping 6, 7, or 8 hours at baseline was associated with a 110% excess risk of cardiovascular mortality.
The study also linked poor sleep hygiene with weight gain, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
Why sleep is necessary
There’s much more to sleep than fighting tiredness. Quality sleep is crucial for a number of important brain processes that happen only when we are sleeping. During sleep, the brain consolidates new information and transfers episodic memory from the hippocampus into the cortex as long-term memory.
Quality sleep protects the brain Professor of Sleep Medicine at the University of Oxford Colin A. Espie compared constantly failing to get enough sleep to “a sustained attack on your brain’s ability to function.”
Getting enough is also essential for the healthy functioning of the immune system. When you are sleep deprived, your body doesn’t produce enough cytokines, proteins that control the body’s responses to infection and inflammation. One study even found that a chronic lack of sleep reduces the effectiveness of vaccines.
Sleep also helps to repair DNA damage and chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a higher risk of several different types of cancer, including colon, breast, and liver cancer.
How much sleep is enough?
The amount of sleep necessary for optimum health depends on a number of factors, but scientists recommend that adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
Toddlers aged between 1 and 5 should sleep 12-14 hours a day, while children between 6 and 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours on a regular basis.
Healthy sleep habits are especially important for teenagers since adolescence is a crucial period for growth and development. Teens need more sleep than adults and should aim for 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
Finally, keep in mind that too much sleep can be equally bad for your health. Oversleeping has been linked to a number of negative health consequences, including a higher incidence of infections, fertility problems, depression, memory loss, and a higher risk of heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.