This is What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

I was amazed to find what actually occurs when we are asleep~ The Surrey Sleep Research Center in the UK has documented their findings involving participants who had 6-1/2 hours of sleep vs. 7-1/2.   As you would guess, that extra hour of sleep can make a big difference.  Their study gives a fascinating look at what happens when we are asleep.  
Deep Sleep
“Deep”  sleep is important for combining and, therefore, strengthening our memories of the day (short-term memory)  so that they will then become a past memory that we will be able to retrieve in the future (long-term memory).  The researchers are saying that if we don’t get enough sleep then these short term memories will be lost.  I know many people, including myself, have from time to time tried to catch up with their sleep after a few days of  very little.  But according to the study, these short term memories have to be sorted out and moved from short-term to long-term memory within 24 hours or it won’t happen.  So even though we picture deep sleep as sleeping soundly, it’s exactly the opposite since are brains are hard at work.
Rapid Eye Movement  
The next step is “REM” (rapid eye movement) sleep. There is a hormone in our body (Noradrenaline)  that is naturally produced to help with our response to stress (remember the term fight-or-flight?).  Well this particular chemical in our brain is switched off during REM sleep.  According to their study, this is the ONLY time it is off.  This break from having a stress responder allows us to remain in a calm state while our brain processes the events of the day. Isn’t that amazing?!
Finally they studied the genes of the participants.  The genes that are tied to diabetes and risk of cancer were more active in the group that had LESS sleep.  They also concluded that this same group with less sleep had more active genes that are connected to inflammation and stress.
I believe that this research, and others like it, show that sleep and health are closely tied.  A sufficient and daily amount of sleep not only restores and refreshes us but our health depends on it!   Look for a future post on ways to help with getting a good night’s sleep.
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