Thursday, October 02, 2014

How sleep impacts a person's health

This article explains how sleep can impact many factors of a person's overall health, such as dietary choices.

The mechanisms of sleep are only partially clear and remain the subject of intense research according to the National Sleep Foundation.

"Determining the specific amount of sleep that is sufficient for optimal health is difficult since it may vary depending on age of the individual, performance, co-existing health problems and life-style and environmental factors," said Dr. Lydia Kaume, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

As a guideline, Kaume says studies indicate getting enough sleep — 8 to 10 hours for adults — may provide significant long-term health benefits. About two-thirds of Americans lack enough sleep.

A 2011 National Sleep Foundation poll found that 43 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep during the week. In addition, more than 60 percent report a sleep problem every night, including: snoring, waking in the night or waking up too early.

Researchers are also searching for links that demonstrate a relationship between sleep and its influence on individual dietary choices.

"Some studies have demonstrated that those who sleep less are more likely to consume energy-dense foods, including fats or refined carbohydrates, more likely to have more irregular meal patterns, and less likely to consume adequate amounts of vegetables," said Kaume.

A review published in Nutrition Research (April of 2012) shows these relationships. The studies show that foods most helpful in promoting sleep increased bioavailability of tryptophan and production of serotonin.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid (the body cannot make it and has to be consumed in the diet), and is found in cheese, chicken, eggs, milk, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy and tofu, turkey.

"Our bodies' body uses tryptophan to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter, a chemical that is thought to promote sleep and balanced mood, and multiple functions including effects on appetite and memory," said Kaume.

With regard to health, several studies support the link between sleep disturbances and immune function, and inflammation. Although these relationships are complex and unclear, sleep deprivation is known to result in increased levels of inflammatory markers, which then lead to further activation of the inflammatory cascade.

Studies have also shown associations between sleep disorders and in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a chronic immune-mediated inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract.

"As more of such studies are published, it is becoming apparent that individuals need to consider taking action to ensure they sleep better to prevent health problems associated with sleep disturbances," said Kaume.

Most researchers agree that eliminating habits or foods that interfere with sleep would be a great way to deal with sleep problems. Here are some tips from several tips that may help you sleep better according to Kaume.

Avoid caffeine at least four-hours before bed time. Caffeine typically stays in the body for four to six hours and may decrease melatonin levels in the body.

Avoid alcohol before bed, although it may make individuals doze off easier, the sleep is shallow causes one to awake later in the night.

Avoid nicotine, and spicy meals may also be helpful as they interfere with sleep.

Keep a regular schedule and to your best to sleep at the same time every night.

Light sleepers may wear ear plugs.

Avoid liquids near bed time to avoid getting up needing to use the bathroom.

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