Mental Health Matters: Sleep is exercise for the brain
In the past two weeks, a number of new findings about the importance of sleep have been announced, and the sheer number of research results all coming out at this time — the longest days of the year — seem to saying “Pay attention!”
So, here is a summary of what we learned just this week:
If you get enough sleep — six hours or more — researchers have found you are more likely to pass up unhealthy food choices the next day.
For some reason, sleepy people use a much poorer judgment in their food choices.
An experiment using healthy volunteers shows people who are deprived of sleep experience changes in their brains that make them more likely to eat a cheeseburger than healthier foods.
When these people have enough sleep, it is like their “health-protection” section of the brain wakes up and the subjects made better choices.
If you want to lose weight and be healthier — sleep!
Even scarier, those who habitually sleep less than six hours a night seem to be at risk of developing symptoms that predict future risk of a stroke, according to researchers at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.
In the experiment, participants with normal body-mass indices who slept less than six hours a night had a 4.5-fold increased risk of having stroke-like symptoms, compared to similar individuals who got 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
So, if lack of sleep causes people to gain weight, make unhealthy food choices and increases the risk of diabetes and stroke, what is next?
Well, it seems nighttime noises in hospitals that contribute to the poor sleep patients often report seems to hurt healing in the patients who need it most.
In a laboratory sleep study, recorded hospital sounds of overhead paging, IV alarms, squeaky carts and the like disrupted sleep and raised heart rates, one of the signs of increased anxiety and stress.
Electronic sounds such as ringing phones or IV alarms were the most potent in arousing sleepers.
These beeps, buzzes and tones disrupted the normal sleep brain-wave patterns more than half of the time, even when set at their quietest settings.
At the same time, hospital-staff conversations and voice paging at a level of 50 decibels (which is quieter than a normal conversation) disrupted sleep half of the time.
The modern hospital can be bad for your health in many, many ways, and the general public often perceives short hospital stays after surgery as a sign of bad health care, whereas in reality, the shorter the hospital stay — only as long as necessary — shows better outcomes.
Responsible doctors who care about patients get them out of hospitals as soon as safely possible; doctors who keep patients for longer than average terms are often motivated by factors other than their patients’ health.
In any event, hospitals are bad for your sleep and, as we have seen from three studies released in the last few days, poor sleep is very bad for your health.
This kind of news can make you grateful for a boring sermon, lecture or friend — we are always looking for the silver lining.
Thanks for caring about your mental health and for taking care of it, too! If you have questions or comments, write to us here because
it is always great to
hear from you.