You probably know how miserable you feel when you don't get enough sleep. Your body doesn't seem to function right, your balance is off, your mind isn't as sharp as it usually is, and food may bother your stomach more. What's more, drowsy driving causes 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries every year in the United States. But these aren't the only problems with chronic insomnia. Researchers have found that not sleeping well for long periods of time can cause serious damage to your organs.
A study out of the Medical College of Wisconsin found that sleep deprivation causes cell damage in your organs, particularly in your lungs, small intestine, and liver. The researchers also found that this damage makes you much more susceptible to disease.
Dr. Carl Everson, PhD, professor of neurology, cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said, "This is important because specific physical underpinnings that pose disease risk from sleep deficiency have been elusive and are now becoming identified."
Dr. Everson and his team forced rats into either partial or total sleep deprivation for 10 days. They found that losing sleep increased cell death and cell proliferation. In particular, they saw pronounced detrimental changes in the lung, liver and small intestine. And it didn't matter whether their sleep was partially interrupted or totally eliminated. The damage was similar in both groups.
How bad was the damage? In the intestine, the sleep deprivation resulted in 5.3-fold increases in dying cells and 1.5-fold increases in proliferating cells, compared with the control.
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The good news is that the researchers also found that restoring sleep can heal the damage. In fact, the rats were allowed to sleep after the deprivation, and the time spent in sleep recovery helped repair DNA damage. Two days of recovery sleep restored the balance between DNA damage and repair. It also reduced metabolic burdens and oxidative damage, both of which can lead to health problems such as diabetes, heart problems, and systemic inflammation.
This study shows just how important sleep is to your health. It's really no surprise that insomnia causes health problems. But it is surprising to see just how devastating it is. So if you're not sleeping well, it's vital you take steps to get plenty of rest.
One of the best ways to make sure you get plenty of sleep is to stick to a very disciplined schedule. Make sure you go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day.
You'll also want to make sure your bedroom is free of the things that may disrupt sleep. This can include bright night lights, glowing light-emitting alarm clocks, and television sets.
It's also important to manage your food at night. Don't go to bed hungry or too full. Both can interrupt your sleep. So can alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine when you use them before bedtime. So avoid these as well.
Finally, take a supplement such as Pure Sleep to help you get to sleep and stay asleep. This supplement contains honokiol (ho-no-KI-ol), which is an extract from magnolia bark. It gently raises GABA levels in the brain. This amino acid helps calm your brain and shut down the mental chatter that keeps you awake at night. And honokiol is a proven way to help you sleep better at night. I'll have more on this nutrient in future issues of Nutrient Insider.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.