Sleep is essential for our well-being: it helps us regenerate brain and cognitive functions, consolidate memory and stabilize mood. Sleeping well is necessary to keep our physiological balances optimal, which include the regulation of metabolism (and appetite) and the immune, hormonal, and even cardiovascular systems. The duration of the hours of sleep is associated with the risk of death and with that of developing other pathologies, including cardiovascular diseases, some forms of cancer, obesity, and depression. If it is true that those who sleep catch fish, it is true that those who sleep too little have a higher risk of cardiovascular events. So how many hours of sleep should we allow ourselves to gain more health? And above all, how should our rest be?
How Many Hours Of Sleep Per Night?
If sleeping too much or too little is not suitable for us, then what is the right sleep formula?
- A multiple of two, apparently: no less than six and no more than 8 hours of sleep a night.
Quality Over Quantity
What happens to our body if we sleep too little or badly, even for 6-7 hours? The harmful effects of sleep deprivation began to be evident as early as the 1980s when, at the peak of the Japanese economic boom, an increase in deaths due to lack of sleep and excessive working hours was associated. Many of these cases of “karoshi,” which translated means “death from overwork,” were due to ischemic cerebrovascular events.
- Lack of sleep is a common problem in modern society: Studies show that most people sleep around 6.8 hours a night, an hour and a half less than a century ago.
However, the correlation between hours of sleep and risk of death appears to be “U-shaped”; that is, it seems to increase not only for the reduced hours of rest but also for the excessive ones.
- In a study which for seven years evaluated the risk of death in correlation with the various hours of sleep on approximately 7000 individuals, it was calculated that men who sleep less than 6 hours (but also those who sleep more than 9 hours) have a risk of death of 1.7 times higher than in peers who sleep 7-8 hours a night, for women this risk is 1.6.
- Similar results emerged from an American study: those who sleep more than 10 hours a night have a 1.8 times higher risk of death than those who sleep 7-8 hours. In the same study, it was shown that men who sleep less than 4 hours have a six-year risk of death that is 2.8 times higher than those who sleep 7-8 hours. This risk was calculated to be 1.5 for women.
- According to a Spanish study on about 4000 adults with an average age of 46, having fragmented sleep with frequent interruptions increases the risk of atherosclerotic disease or narrowing of blood vessels with a consequent increase in stroke or heart attack.
- Snoring and obstructive respiratory apnea ( interruption of breathing for at least 10 seconds) are sleep disorders that increase the risk of arterial hypertension, heart attack, and brain events. If your partner complains of your snoring, it is essential to do polysomnography to assess the quality of your sleep and the occurrence of sleep apnea.
Why Is Sleep So Important For Health?
Several scientific types of research highlight a correlation between lack of sleep and arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and the risk of ischemic cardiac events such as heart attacks.
- Those who sleep little (less than 6 hours a night) or too much (more than 8 hours a night) have been shown to have an 11% and 33% risk of heart attack or stroke, or death at nine years, respectively, compared to those who sleep 6-8 hours a night.
Why does this happen? Our autonomic nervous system is responsible for perceiving signals and transmitting impulses regardless of our will. It deals with regulating our blood pressure based on stimuli from the outside. Its functioning is based on the balance between two components: the “sympathetic” and the “parasympathetic” system. The first is responsible for activating the organs, causing tachycardia, sweating, and increased breathing rate.
A few hours of sleep would cause an increase in the sympathetic autonomic nervous system, resulting in an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, circulating levels of adrenaline, and increased tone of blood vessels (which, therefore, narrow), all factors that increase the risk of a heart attack. Furthermore, a few hours of sleep reduces our body’s tolerance to sugars, and increases the concentration of cortisol in the evening (the stress hormone), thus also increasing the risk of diabetes.
How To Sleep Well
Good sleep quality can depend on factors we cannot control, such as work stress and family or love problems. However, there are a few ways to get better sleep.
- Schedule sleep times. Go to sleep, get up at the same time every day, and try to limit the differences between holidays and weekdays to no more than an hour of rest. Being repetitive and constant helps your sleep-wake cycle. If you can’t sleep in the first 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing, e.g., read an undemanding book, listen to light music, take a hot shower or bath, etc. Instead, avoid cell phones, tablets, and all electronic tools the hour before bedtime, as they can adversely affect sleep.
- Create a comfortable sleeping environment. Set the right temperature, and create darkness and quiet. Consider using earplugs, eye masks, or fans to cool the environment (by blowing air away from your body).
- Manage work stress. Try to calm down before going to bed; if you have thoughts and worries about work, outline your commitments and write in a diary what worries you most before going to sleep. This method will help you keep anxieties and fears away during the night and not turn your dreams into nightmares.
- Limit daytime naps. Naps can interfere with sleep at night. Try to limit them to thirty minutes if they are essential to you, and avoid them late in the day. If you work at night, however, you may need to take a nap before going to work to reduce sleep debt.
- Exercise regularly. Physical exercise stimulates a relaxed sleep, but avoid exercising a few hours before going to sleep, as physical activity activates your body before pulling it.
- Pay attention to what you drink and eat. Do not go to sleep on an overly full or empty stomach. Avoid drinking liquids before a night’s rest. Avoid eating heavy, high-calorie, and processed foods, and go to bed for the first two hours after a meal. Only consume caffeine and alcohol after bedtime. Caffeine has a stimulating effect; it takes hours to get rid of it (the same thing as nicotine, so it is also good to avoid
- d smoking ) during alcohol. However, it can make you tired; first, it causes interrupted, disturbed sleep, and you may wake up during the night.
- Eat foods that contain tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that favors the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, so at dinner, you can choose foods that are rich in it, such as milk and cheese.
Grana Padano DOP, in particular, is a concentrate of milk but contains less fat than the whole milk with which it is produced since it is skimmed off during its processing. Cheese has the highest amount of calcium among those commonly consumed. It also provides proteins with a high biological value, including tryptophan, vitamins such as A and those of group B ( B2 and B12 ), and minerals with antioxidant power such as zinc and selenium. Drinking a small glass of warm (skim or semi-skimmed) milk before bed can help you sleep without weighing your stomach.
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