Getting Enough Sleep

When Napoleon Bonaparte was asked how many hours sleep people need, he is said to have replied: “Six for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool.”

It would seem I fit somewhere in the woman to fool range according to the Little Corsican.

For as long as I remember, I have needed at least seven hours sleep to function well during the day, eight is ideal. Anything less than and I’m groggy, moody and headachy. Most people are the same. Sure, there are some supermen out there who famously got by with four hours sleep or less: Napoleon, Thatcher, Churchill to name a few. Bully for them!

For the rest of us mortals a good night’s sleep is mandatory. What I find fascinating is the research arguing just how important sleep is for our overall health. Sleep is something so mundane that I never gave it much thought until relatively recently.

Studies suggest that deep sleep lowers the body’s glucose levels, increases human growth hormone (HGH) and lowers cortisol production. Thus, sleep is essential in glucose regulation.

In contrast, poor sleep patterns can lead to increased blood glucose levels. The linked study focuses on black Americans, but it cites previous studies that had similar findings for Europeans and Asians.

Here’s a key takeaway from the study:

In addition to studying sleep apnea, the researchers found that participants who experienced other types of disturbed sleep—including sleep fragmentation and sleep duration variability—were also more likely to have increased measures of blood glucose.  The associations between disturbed sleep and high blood glucose levels were stronger in participants with diabetes compared to those without diabetes, the researchers said. In those without diabetes, disturbed sleep was also associated with increased insulin resistance.

I’ve typically been a good sleeper, and I’ve improved in this respect since giving up booze. I think all readers know the sleep one gets after three glasses of wine or four pints of ale. You’re not exactly drunk, but you’re not sober either. For me, the sleep that comes with that kind of drinking was horrible: restless and never deep.

Conclusion

I work a lot harder now to sleep well especially during the work week. I have my last coffee at around five, and it’s lights out at 11:00pm if not earlier. That way, I always have my guaranteed seven hours.

By the way, what got me really interested in sleep was a conversation Joe Rogan had with sleep expert Professor Matthew Walker. It’s really worth a watch:

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