We are discovering more about good healthy sleep every day. Is it fair to suggest that anything less than a routine 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night will have negative impacts on human health? 

A recent news comment triggered a curious chain of thought. The text said that generally, world leaders only have around four hours of sleep out of any day. My mind’s memory then flashed a series of images which recalls an observation that has baffled me for some time. “Why do our leaders appear to age quickly (beyond their actual years) during their time in office?” Is it the onerous task of their office and the associated responsibilities? Or is it a high level of stress compounded by a lack of healthy sleep, or something else altogether?

Sleep was once thought of as a passive state that assisted in recuperation from the day’s activity. Such thinking has been replaced with a library of evidence that our bodies require proper sleep to restore physical health and optimal mental function.

In a broad sense, the eight hours of sleep can be broken into two halves. The first four hours are primarily dedicated to the anatomical cellular (physical) repair. It is during the following four hours that our brain cleans itself and rejuvenates. So, should you reduce the number of hours you sleep each night, it’s your brain that could suffer the most.

Famous proponents of short sleep, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The glymphatic system’s cerebrospinal fluid is responsible for flushing out the brain’s toxic waste products that cells produce with daily use. A recent study by author and University of Rochester neurosurgeon Maiken Nedergaard said, “Sleep puts the brain in another state where we clean out all the byproducts of activity during the daytime.” Those byproducts include beta-amyloid protein, clumps of which form plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.”

The difference of cerebrospinal fluid influx is seen in the brain of an awake and a sleeping mouse. Fluorescent dye has been injected into the animal to enable viewing of cerebrospinal fluid dynamics in a mouse that is still alive. The red represents the greater flow in a sleeping animal, while the green represents conversely restricted flow in the same awake animal. (Lulu Xie)

Yes, you can survive on limited sleep every night. The question must be asked, “Are those limited sleep nights having a longer-term effect on your health?” 

New research simply reinforces how vitally important it is to get the right quality and quantity of sleep each night. It encourages good heart health, better eating and exercise habits and better mental health, boosts our memory and confidence, restores our creativity and vitality, makes us more physically attractive and allows us to function better during the day. It also makes us safer drivers, more productive in our respective jobs, more emotionally level and calmer people.

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