Everyone has experienced the effects of sleep deprivation at some point or another: fatigue, brain fog, memory lapses and general malaise. Most people don’t give the loss of sleep too much consideration until the problem occurs on a regular basis and disrupts their ability to work or aggravates any health conditions they may have. But, research shows that not getting enough sleep may be doing more damage than most people might think.
In a new study, published in the medical journal Molecular Metabolism, researchers assessed healthy men of healthy weight to determine whether short-term sleep partial deprivation had any effect on their gut health. For two nights the men slept for just over four hours, between the hours of 2:45 am to 7:00am. For two additional nights the men slept normally, which in the study was defined as 8-1/2 hours between 10:30 pm and 7 am. They found that short-term sleep loss alters gut microbes, in terms of the ratios between different varieties of bacteria. Some strains increased while others significantly dropped. The microbial changes were comparable to changes linked to metabolism disruptions.
Additionally, the researchers found changes in insulin sensitivity, which is a factor in diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity. Sleep deprivation, even for such short times, resulted in a 20 percent reduction in sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Insulin is a hormone which regulates blood sugar levels in the body. When blood sugar levels increase after eating, insulin ensures that the levels drop back down. When the body stops responding properly to insulin, the results can be damaging. When this impaired sensitivity to insulin happens over long periods of time, insulin resistance can result. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body no longer responds properly to the natural compound secreted by the pancreas in response to sugars.
Because the research was preliminary, it’s not clear whether longer-term (beyond two days) sleep deprivation might result in insulin resistance, but the 20 percent drop in insulin sensitivity is definitely cause for further studies into the effects of sleep loss.
While the research continues, you don’t have to lose more sleep worrying about the effects of sleep loss.
6 Strategies for Better Sleep:
There are some excellent natural options that can help, including:
1. Skip caffeine after 3pm.
2. Avoid eating at least three hours before bedtime.
3. Try to go to bed at the same time each night to help your body adjust to this pattern.
4. Avoid blue-light emitting technologies within a few hours of sleep. These include: computers, televisions and cellphones.
5. Have a bath before bedtime to help you relax; better yet, add some lavender essential oil to the bath. Lavender has been found to calm the entire nervous system within one minute, helping people to feel more relaxed and sleepier.
6. Stop working at least a few hours before bed.