Many people are aware that they should try their best to get proper amounts of sleep. At the very least, lack of it makes them groggy the following day. In other, more serious instances, drowsy driving has been found to be responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries every year in the United States. So serious is the issue that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers lack of shut-eye a public health epidemic.(1)
Add to it a new finding that has determined that sleep deprivation and cell damage go hand in hand, and it’s easy to understand why the topic warrants serious attention.
Sleep deprivation linked to cell, organ damage
The study, conducted by scientists at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), established a link between increased disease risk and sleep deprivation, specifically noting that the cells most damaged include ones in the lung, small intestine and the liver. While they did find that sleep recovery restored damaged cells back to healthier ones, it makes the case that too much insufficient sleep can undoubtedly take its toll.(2)
“The study culminates years of work and provides physical evidence that sleep deprivation injures cells and that sleep recovery restores the balance between, among other parameters, DNA damage and repair,” said Dr. Carl Everson, Ph.D., professor of neurology, cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy at MCW. “This is important because specific physical underpinnings that pose disease risk from sleep deficiency have been elusive and are now becoming identified.”(2)
The scientists had subject rats enter either partial or total sleep deprivation for 10 days. Those receiving recovery sleep were also sleep-deprived for 10 days, then allowed to sleep for 48 hours. Increases in cell death and cell proliferation were more prevalent among those who didn’t receive sleep, while time spent in sleep recovery helped repair DNA damage. In particular, detrimental changes were especially high in the lung, liver and small intestine, with both partially-sleep-deprived subjects and those totally sleep-deprived experiencing such negative effects.(3)
The study, which was published in the journal SLEEP, explains the following:
In the intestinal epithelium, total sleep deprivation resulted in 5.3-fold increases in dying cells and 1.5-fold increases in proliferating cells, compared with control. Two days of recovery sleep restored the balance between DNA damage and repair, and resulted in normal or below-normal metabolic burdens and oxidative damage.(3)
This study reinforces the importance of sleep, as going without it likely leads to health consequences.
Healthy habits to get more sleep
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several ways a person can get a good night’s sleep.
They advise trying to stay with a sleep schedule, not even deviating on weekends or vacation time. In other words, going to bed and rising around the same time every day helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle so that better rest is achieved.(4)
The Mayo Clinic also suggests keeping the bedroom free of the things that may disrupt sleep. As such, bright night lights, glowing light-emitting alarm clocks and television sets should be avoided. Rooms should be kept quiet and as dimly lit as possible.(4)
Furthermore, it’s important to keep track of hunger; going to sleep hungry or too full can affect sleep quality. The Mayo Clinic suggests refraining from or limiting alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bedtime, as they contribute to sleep disruption throughout the evening.(4)
Foods that help induce sleep include iron-rich foods such as spinach and lentils, as they play a role in lessening restless leg syndrome, which can keep people up at night. Additionally, consuming foods that are high in tryptophan is advised. Tryptophan-rich foods, which boost levels of melatonin, include eggs, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.(5)
About the author:
A science enthusiast with a keen interest in health nutrition, Antonia has been intensely researching various dieting routines for several years now, weighing their highs and their lows, to bring readers the most interesting info and news in the field. While she is very excited about a high raw diet, she likes to keep a fair and balanced approach towards non-raw methods of food preparation as well.