Sleep deficiency is reported to be a common health problem in the United States. There are long- and short-term consequences that include heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.1 Physical signs may be swollen, sunken eyes, dark circles, pale dehydrated skin, and barrier dysfunction.2 Subclinical effects can affect wound healing, collagen growth, skin hydration, and skin texture.3 Moreover, there is a higher level of inflammation in sleep-deprived individuals that may result in outbreaks of acne, eczema, psoriasis, and skin allergies.
Lack of sleep increases glucocorticoid production, elevating cortisol levels that affect fibroblast function increasing matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), collagenase and gelatinase. MMPs accelerate collagen and elastin breakdown resulting in increased wrinkling, reduction of growth factors, decreasing skin thickness, and elasticity.4
Ability to function with optimum energy during waking hours is dependent on adequate sleep. Sleep deficiency interferes with learning, focusing, making decisions, and controlling emotions. Children who are sleep deficient may be overly active and result in attention issues. Moreover, sleep supports the brain to prepare for next day activities, forming new pathways to help learn and remember.5
HOW MUCH SLEEP IS ENOUGH?
Sleep requirements change throughout the course of a lifetime. The amount tends to reduce as one grows. For example, infants aged four to 12 months require 12 to 16 hours a day including naps. Teens 13 to 18 require eight to ten hours a day. Adults aged 18 years or older require seven to eight hours a day.
Losing a night’s sleep triggers an immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Acute sleep deprivation increases potential harmful effects on the brain with accumulation of beta-amyloid in the hippocampus and thalamus.
Too much sleep, consistently sleeping nine hours or more, has been shown to have a negative effect on memory. Moreover, it may be indicative of brain changes that lead to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Circadian rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur within a 24-hour cycle. All living organisms have internal built-in biological clocks composed of specific molecules that interact in cells throughout the body. Light and darkness play a vital role in the regulation of these innate biological clocks. Residing in a part of the brain, the hypothalamus is a master clock made up of a group of approximately 20,000 nerve cells that form a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). It receives direct input from the eyes. Light signals received through the eyes tell the brain that it is daytime. The master clock regulates all internal clocks. It also controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that encourages sleep.
Circadian rhythms are produced within the body, however signals from the environment affect them, as well. Daylight is a main influence. Light turns on or off genes that control the molecular structure of the biological clock. The internal Circadian clock is synchronized with cues in the environment and helps determines when one feels awake or feels drowsy. A compound called adenosine also rises in the brain during daytime and increases towards evening signaling a shift toward sleep. Sleep breaks down adenosine.
The pressure to sleep builds with every waking hour. The drive for sleep reaches a peak in the evening as melatonin signals the body to prepare for sleep. Irregularities or interference of this process can be linked to chronic health conditions, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. Exposure to bright, artificial light in the late evening can interfere with this process, making it difficult to fall asleep.
BLUE LIGHT’S EFFECT ON SLEEP
Blue light wavelengths (470 nanometers) from natural light are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood. Exposure to lots of bright daylight helps boost the ability to sleep at night. Studies from the Harvard Medical School confirmed that natural daylight keeps a person’s internal clocked aligned with the environment.
Conversely, blue light emanating from artificial light sources, like LED and fluorescent lightbulbs, can affect sleep and potentially cause disease. Newer energy-efficient lighting tend to produce more blue light.
Exposure to blue wavelengths escalates after sundown with increased usage of modern-day electronics with screens. There is growing evidence that suggests a possible link between exposure to artificial light at night and certain types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
It stands to reason that any light during sleep time can suppress the secretion of melatonin, however, blue light at night is more potent. Too much exposure alters the natural Circadian rhythms.
TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
The following are good tips for both the professional and client when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Refrain from consuming caffeine late in the day. Perform physical activity during the day. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening and refrain from looking at bright screens two to three hours prior to going to bed. Remove electronics; create a peaceful environment that allows relaxation and clearing of the mind. Daily meditation also supports a more restful sleep. Use blue-blocking glasses and apps that filter the blue and green wavelength at night. Sleep in total darkness. When using a night light, choose dim red lights. Red has the least amount of power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
Sleep is a powerful antiaging tool that promotes not only optimum health, but also helps keep premature aging at bay. One of the most impactful ways to keep the mind sharp and body young is receiving a solid night’s sleep.
1 “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What Are
Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-
2 “Circadian Rhythms.” National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
3 Talakroub, Lily, Naissan O. Wesley. “Beauty sleep: Sleep deprivation and the skin.”
Dermatology News. Feb 2, 2017.
5 “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.”