You are young, fit and healthy. You eat well, exercise often and unlike most people you know, log the recommended eight hours of sleep a night. In fact, you are so dedicated to your snooze-time that you have rearranged your evening habits to ensure that you are regularly in bed by 11, no matter what. You are confident that this type of lifestyle will lead to nothing but health and that your level of wellness is far superior to that of your sleep-deprived friends, but your confidence may be premature. For when it comes to sleep, quantity isn’t the only thing that matters. Quality counts, too.
Researchers recently tested the effects of shallow sleep on nine healthy, normal-weight men and women between the ages of 20 and 31. The participants were first allowed to sleep undisturbed for two nights so that their normal sleep patterns could be observed. The following three nights, they slept for the same amount of time (8.5 hours) but were kept from drifting into slow-wave sleep. The researchers made a loud noise each time the participants’ brain waves signaled they were close to doing so. After these restless nights, eight of the nine had developed insulin resistance, a condition which can lead to type 2 diabetes and is usually connected to a gain of 20 or 30 pounds.
Regardless of your health, you need to ensure that you get not only the right amount of sleep but also the right kind. Create an environment that is conducive to an undisturbed night – no bright lights, jarring noises or uncomfortable locations. If you have difficulty sleeping through the night, consider sleep aids. It’s vital that when you conk out, you do so all the way.
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