Dr. Diane Mueller, ND, LAc with Living Love Mindfulness Medicine (livinglovecommunity.com) is our guest writer for this article. Today, she wrote about sleep restriction, something we have all experienced.
Is sleep restriction really that significant of a problem?
Sleep restriction is defined by the Center for Disease Control as less than 7 hours on average/night. As of 2016, more than one third of Americans fall into this category (5).
What are the effects of sleep restriction on health?
For starters, sleep restriction is associated with obesity. This most likely occurs through the impact that sleep restriction has on insulin levels. Research shows that sleep restriction leads to a decrease in morning insulin sensitivity. As our cellular receptors become less sensitive to insulin, blood glucose levels rise. Insulin resistance is highly connected to obesity, thereby showing the impact that sleep restriction could be having on the current obesity epidemic (1).
Research conducted on rats showed that chronic sleep restriction would cause mitochondrial dysfunction, induced by 8-amyloid accumulation. 8-amyloid accumulation is associated with Alzheimer's disease (3). Other studies have linked sleep restriction to memory deficits and inflammatory conditions.
What about the quality of sleep?
Other research is pointing to the fact that the quality of sleep may be even more important than the actual numbers of sleep. A study conducted in adolescents found that those who had a higher sleep disturbance had higher cardiovascular risks and high blood pressure than controls (2). Thus illustrating that we need to look beyond simply the number of sleep hours we are getting, but what the quality is actually like.
What can we do about it?
Blue light has been getting some press on its negative effect on our ability to fall asleep as well as stay asleep. But what about the effects of the way we wake up in the morning? One study analyzed the effect of waking up to bright blue diode light, dim light, or dawn stimulated night in individuals who had two nights of sleep restriction. In this study, cognitive performance, well-being and mood were significantly better in those who had woken up to the dawn stimulated light in contrast to the bright or dim light (4). Perhaps one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves is to realign our body with the natural rhythms of the day.
Another great tool for helping sleep is mindfulness. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve sleep disturbance more than controls in those with chronic sleep issues (6). Examples of mindfulness practices are meditation, yoga and qigong. Mindfulness can be applied to the activities of daily living such as washing the dishes or driving a car. All we need to do is to bring our awareness to the present task at hand. This is exciting as it is an easy and cost effective way to make positive changes to our health.
1) Mcneil, Jessica, Eric Doucet, and Jean-Philippe Chaput. "Inadequate Sleep as a Contributor to Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes." Canadian Journal of Diabetes 37.2 (2013): 103-08. Web.
2) Narang, I., C. Manlhiot, J. Davies-Shaw, D. Gibson, N. Chahal, K. Stearne, A. Fisher, S. Dobbin, and B. W. Mccrindle. "Sleep Disturbance and Cardiovascular Risk in Adolescents." Canadian Medical Association Journal 184.17 (2012): n. pag. Web.
3) Zhao, Hongyi, Huijuan Wu, Jialin He, Jianhua Zhuang, Zhenyu Liu, Yang Yang, Liuqing Huang, and Zhongxin Zhao. "Frontal Cortical Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Mitochondria-related B-amyloid Accumulation by Chronic Sleep Restriction in Mice." NeuroReport 27.12 (2016): 916-22. Web.
4) Gabel, Virginie, Micheline Maire, Carolin F. Reichert, Sarah L. Chellappa, Christina Schmidt, Vanja Hemmes, Antoine U. Viola, and Christian Cajochen. "Effects of Artificial Dawn and Morning Blue Light on Daytime Cognitive Performance, Well-being, Cortisol and Melatonin Levels." Chronobiology International 30.8 (2013):
5) "1 in 3 Adults Don't Get Enough Sleep." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 July 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215- enough-sleep.html>.
6) Black, David S., Gillian A. O'Reilly, Richard Olmstead, Elizabeth C. Breen, and Michael R. Irwin. "Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances." JAMA Internal Medicine JAMA Intern Med 175.4 (2015): 494. Web.