I think sleep is the most under-rated portion of the anti-aging world.
Sometimes we get so caught up with taking supplements, working out and eating correctly, that we forget about sleep. I tell my patients to think about sleep like the rebooting of a computer. When we get a good nights’ sleep, our brain literally resets our body’s biochemistry. Our growth hormone spikes when we hit REM sleep, which heals and regenerates our tissues. This is not to say the aforementioned things are not important. They really are. It’s a concerted effort of all these things that will regenerate our bodies and increase longevity.
Several studies have shown that regularly sleeping 5 hours or less at night increased mortality risk from all causes by about 15%  We all have friends that say ”I only need 5 hours per night”. I’m here to tell you that that is not enough. I think everyone understands the yin and yang.
We need to start thinking about our bodies like this. There should be an equal about of energy used to energy gained. There should also be an equal amount of oxidation to anti-oxidation. Longevity requires this balance. People that get too little will be at a deficit over time. Let me explain it in the term of “sleep debt”.
We need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
Anything under that will put a person into sleep debt. So, if you get 5 hours you will owe yourself 2 extra hours to catch up. Take a look at this study at the University of Pennsylvania. It showed that people who get 6 hours of sleep for 10 nights, function as poorly as a person who is sleep deprived for 24 hours straight. We’ve all pulled all nighter before. Do you remember how you feel then next day? I have literally seen hallucinations. I thought a cat ran out in the road and almost had a wreck!
Those of us that think we can get by on 5 hours need to rethink this. If you miss just one hour of sleep every night for a week, but just on weekdays, you have amassed 5 hours of “sleep debt”. Paying that off over the weekend will amount to way too much sleep. This will definitely throw your schedule off which will set you up for failure for the upcoming week. It’s a terrible cycle. The following are symptoms to look for when you don’t sleep enough:
If it’s just for a night or two
- Fuzzy-headedness, irritability, fatigue
- Memory problems
- Decreased immune function
- More likely to be hungry and eat more
- More likely to have an accident
Chronic “sleep debt”
- Increased risk of obesity – due to changes in appetite regulation from altered levels of the appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin 
- Greater risk of certain cancers – specifically colorectal adenomas 
- Higher risk of diabetes 
- Increased risk of heart disease – a study at the Warwick Medical School showed that “If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep you stand a 48 percent greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15 percent greater chance of developing or dying of a stroke,” 
- And (as you may have guessed based on the above data) in increased risk of death – but what is surprising is that the increase in mortality is after adjusting for diabetes, heart disease, and the other risk factors
I think you guys know that before my South Florida Medical School fellowship in anti-aging and regenerative medicine I was a retail pharmacist. I will tell you that one of the most popular prescription medications in the US is Ambien, generic name zolpidem. It is an epidemic. People are abusing this medication. Doctors are writing prescriptions for this drug without thinking about the underlying cause of the problem.
Very few practitioners are thinking about getting to the root of the problem and it’s not really their fault. The citizens of the US are always looking for a quick fix. Drug companies are always advertising and telling people to ”talk to your doctor or pharmacist”. The problem is that Ambien is hypnotic. Consequently, this means that patients who take Ambien are basically hypnotized and not getting into true REM sleep. Over time these patients can be causing sleep debt even though their eyes are closed for 8 hours.
It is time for us to start taking sleep VERY seriously.
It is key for regenerating tissue and resetting our brains. I know after seeing hundreds of patients per week for decades complain that they do not sleep well that society needs help. The question is, how do we get more? Simply put, by getting more sleep. Easier said than done, read our next posts for tips on short-term and long-term solutions to help you get more sleep.
This is a list of the chronic diseases caused by insufficient sleep
- Thompson, C. L., Larkin, E. K., Patel, S., Berger, N. A., Redline, S. and Li, L. (2011), Short duration of sleep increases the risk of colorectal adenoma. Cancer, 117: 841–847. doi:10.1002/cncr.25507
- Yong Liu, Anne G. Wheaton, Daniel P. Chapman, Janet B. Croft.Sleep Duration and Chronic Diseases among US Adults Age 45 Years and Older: Evidence From the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. SLEEP, 2013; DOI: 5665/sleep.3028