September 30

Episode 8 – How Sleep Affects your Health


In today’s episode of “Work Proof your Brain and Body”, personal trainer Aaron Morton takes a look at the importance of sleep: how sleep quality affects health, and how to improve sleeping habits.

How sleep affects your health and work (00:28)

  • Many people will sacrifice an hour a night to achieve a deadlines
  • Aaron speaks of an experiment a student performed in 1965.
  • He mentions a study on rats which were constantly kept awake.
  • A teenager died of a stroke after a marathon computer game session that lasted several days.

Let’s start with how sleep works (02:21)

  • Before the days of alarm clocks, we arranged our days around sunrise and sunset.
  • We all have an internal biological clock, known as the circadian rhythm, which responds to light and darkness.
    • As sunrise and daylight beckons, we are at our most alert.
    • Equally, sunset compels us to fall asleep.
  • There are many factors that allow your body to release melatonin, the sleep hormone, but light is the biggest influence.
  • When everything falls inline, the circadian rhythm responds as it should.

In this modern, globally connected world, curveballs are thrown all the time (4:44)

  • The biggest culprit is light stimulation, particularly blue light stimulation.
  • In a survey called “Sleep in America”, they found:
    • 95% use some type of electrical device within an hour of going to bed.
    • 61% use a computer or laptop within an hour of that time.
  • In another survey within the UK, they found that 78% of those questioned were exposed to blue light before going to bed.
  • A recent survey found that out of nearly 3000 eleven to eighteen year olds, 48% admitted to checking their phones after they’ve gone to bed. Amazingly 1 in 10 said they check their phones up to 10 times a night. 
  • In another study, individuals who read electronic books took around 10 minutes longer to fall asleep compared to the printed book readers. Additionally e-book readers also experienced less REM sleep during the night.
  • Messing with your circadian rhythm can promote problems to your wider health.

While your sleep cycle goes through four stages (6:25)

  • The first stage is drowsiness
    • This stage is where the electrical activity in your brain lessens
  • Stage two is light sleep
    • The brain’s electrical activity lessens further 
  • Stage three is deep sleep
    • Brain waves noticeably slow down
    • Usually occurs 30 minutes into the sleep cycle
  • The fourth and final stage is called REM (rapid eye movement)
    • Heightened brain activity
    • Suppressed motor function (to prevent acting out of dreams)
    • Dreams occur in this stage
    • Usually occurs 60 minutes into the sleep cycle
  • The entire cycle generally lasts 90 minutes, and repeats four or five times a night.

Common sleep onset problems (8:16)

  • Sleep onset latency (“how long it takes to fall asleep”)
  • Sleep onset insomnia
    • Trouble falling asleep at least three times a week for more than three times a month
  • Common factors and causes for sleep onset problems are:
    • Excess stimulation, such as TV or using technology, before bed.
    • Anxiety
    • Room temperature (especially extremely high temperatures)

Disrupted sleep can hinder many areas of your life (10:40)

  • Three areas particularly pertinent:
    • Weight
    • Cognitive ability
    • Aging

There are two ways poor sleep can affect weight gain (11:16)

  • Hormonal responses
    • Numerous studies have shown that poor sleep can increase your hunger response.
    • Poor sleep causes your body to mix up your appetite hormones, leptin (suppresses appetite) and ghrelin (increases appetite)
  • Decision making
    • Poor sleep can affect how we perceive risk and reward, often leading to more unnecessary risk taking.

What if poor sleep quality becomes prolonged? (16:19)

  • More likely to engage in health risk behaviours, such as smoking, physical inactivity, and increased alcohol consumption.
    • A similar case was found for individuals sleeping more than 9 hours, suggesting there is an optimal period between 6 and 9 hours.
  • Negatively affects short term memory, response time and accuracy, the ability to divide attention and auditory attention.

The effects that sleep has on the aging process (18:15)

  • In addition to chronological age, the body also has a biological age
    • The measure of how your physiological systems are aging.
    • In some aspects, this age is more important to be aware of, as it reflects your health.
  • Sleep has a big influence on aging, both in terms of impairments and the likelihood of metabolic diseases.
  • Evidence show that poor sleep quality accelerates rate of aging:
    • Aaron mentions a few studies that support this evidence.

Conclusion (21:22)

  • Just like a pension is a way of saving throughout your life to ensure you have financial stability in later years, your lifestyle provides the same stability for your health.
  • Aron mentions a few studies that support how poor sleep over a long period can cause various health issues.


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