Aging And Longevity

How does Sleep Increase Life Expectancy

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"How does Sleep Increase Life Expectancy"
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If your doctor told you that you could increase your life expectancy by getting at least eight hours of sleep per night, would you do it? Actually, there is a significant connection between how much sleep your body gets and the importance of what goes on in the brain while you are asleep. 

Numerous researchers are beginning to delve into the mystery of what happens while you sleep. What they are finding suggests that during the night your body is repairing itself while regulating its vast array of hormones, neurotransmitters, and nucleic proteins. It makes sense when you think about it. How often have you heard it said, Go to bed and when you wake up in the morning, you'll feel better. Scientists now believe that there are significant reasons why this statement may be true. Getting enough sleep just may decrease your chances of getting a whole host of illnesses including cancer and heart disease. Greater life expectancy is an added bonus.

According to the National Sleep Foundation there are five levels of sleep. The most beneficial sleep occurs during the fourth level, your body's period of deepest sleep. When you are experiencing the most restful part of your night, your body is repairing itself. While you are in this level your body's cells are regenerating, blood flow is being increased to all parts of the body, and hormones are helping to regulate your cellular growth.

Without at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night, you are not allowing time for your body to heal and restore itself. The effects of sleep deprivation over time mean that you become more susceptible to disease and harmful effects that can occur during the aging process. Essentially, without the proper amount of sleep, you are decreasing your life expectancy.

The right amount of sleep boosts the immune system and regulates the hormones that impact appetite. Studies show that lack of sleep can result in a false sense of pervasive hunger. By depriving your body of necessary sleep, you may be contributing to the battle of unnecessary weight gain that can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and even premature death.

Sleep also impacts the function of neurotransmitters in the brain. Some of these chemicals help you fall asleep and others play a role in your waking up. Studies suggest that sleep allows the neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine to replenish themselves in order to work at peak efficiency during waking hours.

The relationship that exists between sleep and life expectancy raises the question of whether lack of sleep is the direct cause of a shortened life expectancy or whether its deficit is more like an external thermometer. Researchers are questioning whether the absence of sleep might be the observable indicator of internal illness or poor mental health. If the latter is the case, then sleep deprivation may simply be the red flag that suggests that other factors exist that may pose a threat to life expectancy.

It seems likely that sleep plays a dual role in life expectancy. While it provides the opportunity for cellular repair and regulation of essential hormones and neurotransmitters, its absence can also signal the presence of disease or illness in the body. So if you aren't sleeping, the best thing to do is to make a visit to your family physician to find out why. If you are sleeping well, your body is reaping the benefit of the time it needs to perform all the internal functions necessary to sustain life and even increase your life expectancy.

More about this author: Dr. Deborah Bauers

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