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How Important is Sleep? A Quick Review of 2015 Research

Exercise, nutrition, supplements, mental health…etc. these are many of things that people think of when they think of being healthy, but they are overlooking one of the most important parts – sleep! Sleep is vital on so many fronts and it’s imperative that you focus on getting more quality sleep. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at 5 studies from just this past year to depict the importance of sleep:

Losing 30 Minutes of Sleep Per Day Fosters Weight Gain

A study published in Endocrine Society depicted how missing 30 minutes of sleep each day can have some long term metabolic effects – equated to weight gain and being 72% more likely to be obese! Researcher Dr. Shahrad Taheri explained, “Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve their success."

Less Than 5 Hours of Sleep Correlated to Coronary Artery Calcium

A study in the American Heart Association looked at over 47,000 adults and found that those that slept less than 5 hours a day had 50% more coronary artery calcium compared to people who slept 7+ hours! Not only that, sleeping over 9 hours correlated to 70% more coronary calcium than those who slept 7 hours! Researcher Dr. Yoosoo Chang helped to explain, “Overall, we saw the lowest levels of vascular disease in adults sleeping seven hours a day and reporting good sleep quality."

Going to Pull an All-Nighter? Think Again!

Research in eLife found that all-nighters may have the opposite effect of what you want them to if you are trying to remember and retain as much information as possible. Research on flies indicated that when your brain goes into memory consolidating mode it inhibits wakefulness – aka making you sleepy! This is basically saying that our brain consolidates memories when we are sleeping. Therefore the best study/memorization tactic might be to learn something complex and then take a nap! Sounds good to me! Grad student Bethany Christmann weighed in, "It's almost as if that section of the mushroom body were saying 'hey, stay awake and learn this.’ Then, after a while, the DPM neurons start signaling to suppress that section, as if to say 'you're going to need sleep if you want to remember this later.’"

Feel a Cold Coming On? Make Sleep a Priority

Research published in SLEEP found that those who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night are four times more likely to catch a cold (when they were exposed to the virus). Basically, sleep is incredibly vital in helping us process our memories, but it is also very important in helping to keep our immune system running at maximum capacity! Researcher Dr. Aric Prather explained, "Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects' likelihood of catching cold. It didn't matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income."

The New Rules On Sleep: How much do you need?

Loyola University recently published some statistics on how much sleep we all should get per night. While there have been government regulations out for awhile, they updated these regulations to include people of all ages and the latest research. Neuroendocrinologist Dr. Lydia DonCarlos helped to breakdown the importance of sleep and how more research is needed, "We still have a great deal to learn about the function of sleep. We know it's restorative and important for memory consolidation. But we don't know the details of what the function of sleep is, even though it is how we spend one-third of our lives." Check out these new recommendations made by an expert panel at the National Sleep Foundation:

  • 0-3 months: 14-17 hours each day (previously 12-18).
  • 4-11 months: 12-15 hours (previously 14-15).
  • 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (previously 12-14).
  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (previously 11-13).
  • 6-13 years: 9-11 hours (previously 10-11).
  • 14-17 years: 8-10 hours (previously 8.5-9.5).
  • 18-25 years: 7-9 hours (new age category).
  • 26-64 years: 7-9 hours (no change).
  • 65+ years: 7-8 hours (new age category).

Wrap-Up

This new year, maybe it’s time to make sleep one of your health priorities! Not only can it keep you well rested and induce muscle growth it can also help process memories, improve cognitive functions, maintain a healthy body weight, maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, and also improve your immune system. Clearly, sleep should be at the top of your “To-Do” list this year!

Author: Josh Anderson

Josh AndersonJosh Anderson (M.S., Personal Trainer) is the founder and editor of DIY Active: “Fit.Food.Life. No Gym Required.” He enjoys blending the latest science with fitness practices to help you exercise smarter.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.