It doesn't take a rocket scientist – or a somnologist – to figure out that sleep impacts our health. What many of us don't know, is just how many different aspects of our functioning sleep can affect. "It's not just diabetes, it's not just heart disease; it's memory, learning, depression, mood," says Kristen Knutson, a National Sleep Foundation poll scholar and assistant professor of medicine at University of Chicago. "There's a huge effect of sleep across the board for us, throughout our lives."
We aren't yet able to calculate the perfect amount of sleep for each person, but studies have shown that seven to eight hours of quality rest is likely the sweet spot. In order to achieve optimum sleep, Knutson says people should do their best to stick to a sleep schedule, shut down electronics well before bedtime, and recognize that sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
Some of the association between development of type 2 diabetes and sleep deprivation is probably due to the increased risk of obesity. In addition, poor sleep may alter the hormones involved in glucose metabolism. Sleep also seems to decrease the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which plays a role in insulin control and release. One study found that people who were restricted to four-and-a-half hours of sleep for four nights showed a 16-percent drop in their body's overall ability to properly respond to insulin compared to people who slept an average of 7.87 hours.
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