Most of us know that sleep is important, that in fact, it’s vital to our physical and mental health. While some people say they are fine with a few hours of sleep, the majority of us thrive on eight-plus hours, allowing our bodies to heal and to prevent illnesses and increase our mental health.
But while we subconsciously know the importance of sleep, we forgo it for TV, work, computers and other media, and too many nights out.
A small study from the UK shows us why we need to turn off the bright lights, shorten the late nights, shut down our tablets and go home to sleep. Because regular, good sleep can decrease our risk of heart attacks, obesity, diabetes and poor mental health.
The University of Surrey conducted a small sleep study in 26 people, having them sleep for up to 10 hours per night for a week, and then fewer than six hours for another week. When analyzing the blood samples of the participants for both weeks, researchers found that over 700 genes in their bodies had changed due to the difference in sleep.
These genes were in charge of building proteins in the body and these patterns changed, depending on how much sleep the participants had had. On the week with less than six hours of sleep, the activity of these genes had become more sluggish, thus changing how the body performed.
These changes were found to be detrimental to the proper functioning of the body’s immune system, especially as related to the ability of the body to heal and its reaction to stress. The healthy performance of the immune system is very important for heart health, mental health, blood sugar, weight control and other health conditions.
One of the researchers, Prof. Colin Smith from the University of Surrey, talked to the BBC about these findings that really impacted the ability of the body to regenerate if lacking sleep.
“There was quite a dramatic change in activity in many different kinds of genes,” he said.