A Lack of Shuteye can lead to Brain Shut Down

A good night's sleep can make a world of difference when it comes to physical and mental health. While seven to nine hours is the recommended amount of sleep per night according to the National Sleep Foundation, roughly 40 million Americans are getting less. Sometimes this is due to insomnia, but other times it is fueled by the idea that less sleep means more productivity. It may surprise some to know that sleep loss is anything but productive. In fact, it can cause a variety of health problems including affecting the brain health of men, according to a recent study published in the journal Sleep. Along with sleep, natural health supplements can help boost your immune system and support overall health.

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden examined 15 young, healthy men who agreed to spend two nights in a sleep laboratory. The first night, the participants were denied sleep, and the next night, they were allowed to sleep for eight hours. Blood samples were taken each night, before and after sleep, to measure levels of neuron-specific enolase (NSE) and S100 calcium-binding protein B (S-100B), molecules that can indicate damage to the brain.

While these molecules are a natural part of brain tissue, an increase is generally a sign of brain damage and/or a problem with the blood-brain barrier. Levels of both molecules were 20 percent higher after the first night spent in the lab as opposed to levels measured after the second night. Because of the increase in the molecules following sleep deprivation, researchers concluded that lack of sleep might have neurodegenerative consequences. In addition to possible effects to the brain, sleep deprivation affects the health in many other ways.

Research shows that lack of sleep boosts chances for becoming obese and raises risks for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Sleep loss can also affect the immune system through increased inflammation, and early studies have indicated that it can lower the body's resistance to infection.

A recent study concluded that less than seven hours of sleep per night on average boosted the likelihood for development of the common cold. Participants in the study who got eight hours or more sleep per night on average were three times less likely to catch a cold. With all of this evidence, it is no wonder that continual sleep loss has been associated with a shorter lifespan.

Many people think of sleep as a luxury to be enjoyed on weekends. Unfortunately, the idea that limiting hours of sleep boosts productivity couldn't be further from the truth. With the backing of science, workaholics and others are beginning to realize the importance of a good night's sleep. Individuals who have trouble falling asleep can take advantage of these tips:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time each morning.
  • Steer clear of caffeine and other stimulants late in the day, and remember that TV is stimulating as well. To induce a calming atmosphere, lower the lights and turn off the television at least 20 minutes before bedtime.
  • Try valerian root supplements or chamomile tea. These herbs contain compounds that induce relaxation.

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