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Sleep Benefits and Sleep Deprivation Risks

Healthy sleeping habits could lower the risk of heart failure, study finds

Being vigilant about a nighttime routine can be incredibly beneficial for consumers’ heart health

Recent studies have highlighted the ways that poor sleeping habits can negatively affect consumers’ heart health. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the American Heart Association has found the inverse to be true: healthy sleeping habits can be good for consumers’ hearts. 

According to their findings, consumers with solid sleep routines lowered their risk of heart failure by more than 40 percent compared to those who had inconsistent nighttime habits. 

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    Researchers find way to help reduce stress and encourage healthy sleep

    Testing of a chemical called octacosanol shows positive signs

    Life is full of various stresses that can ultimately lead consumers to lose some sleep. Unfortunately, when these stresses aren’t handled properly, they can lead to health problems and diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, and anxiety.

    But researchers at a Japanese sleep institute say they may have found a way to relieve stress and help ensure that consumers sleep soundly. Study leaders Mahesh K. Kaushik and Yoshihiro Urade found that consuming octacosanol – which is found in many everyday foods such as sugarcane, rice bran, and wheat germ oil – helped reduced stress in mice models and return them to normal sleeping patterns.

    “For the first time, we demonstrated that octacosanol is a potent anti-stress compound with sleep inducing potential,” they said.

    Reducing stress and encouraging sleep

    The study focused on mice who were introduced to new cages before going to sleep to simulate a minor stress, which generally disturbed sleep for up to one hour. After administering octacosanol to these subjects, the researchers found that mice were able to sleep normally.

    Upon further examination, they found that the octacosanol lowered corticosterone levels – which has long been considered a stress marker -- in subjects’ blood plasma. They say that the effect was similar to natural sleep and physiological in nature.

    The results show that octacosanol has the potential to reduce stress and increase sleep, but the researchers note that it does not seem to affect sleep in normal animals. Octacosanol supplements are currently available for purchase, and the researchers say that the substance is considered safe for humans and has not showed any side effects.

    Kaushik and Urade hope to continue on to clinical trials with the chemical to test its limitations and investigate the mechanism by which it lowers stress.

    The full study has been published in Scientific Reports.

    Life is full of various stresses that can ultimately lead consumers to lose some sleep. Unfortunately, when these stresses aren’t handled properly, they ca...

    Having trouble sleeping? Try going camping for a weekend

    Researchers find that a weekend under the stars can reset a person's internal clock

    There have been countless “cures” proposed for those who have trouble sleeping. A cursory internet search will suggest anything from sipping warm milk to taking melatonin supplements. However, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have a much more recreational answer: go camping for a weekend.

    Doctor Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor and lead author of a paper covering two studies, explains how going camping in an environment with natural light and dark cycles can reverse the damage of living everyday life in an artificially lit environment.

    "These studies suggest that our internal clock responds strongly and quite rapidly to the natural light-dark cycle. . . Living in our modern environments can significantly delay our circadian timing and late circadian timing is associated with many health consequences. But as little as a weekend camping trip can reset it," he said.

    Managing our internal clocks

    This is not the first paper that Wright has published on the beneficial effects of camping. In 2013, he conducted a study where participants were sent to camp for a week in the summer without the use of headlamps or flashlights at night. When they returned, Wright found that their levels of melatonin – a hormone that prepares the body for nighttime and promotes sleep – had synced with sunrise and sunset, a change of almost two hours.

    To build on that previous study, Wright set out to find how quickly our internal clocks could change based on the lighting of our environment and the time of the year. The first study consisted of 14 participants – nine of which were asked to camp for a weekend during the summer while the other five stayed home. After the weekend, participants who went camping had melatonin rise 1.4 hours earlier than those who hadn’t gone, suggesting that their internal clocks had altered.

    In the second study, five participants camped for an entire week around the time of the winter solstice. Statistics showed that they were exposed to 13 times more natural light than usual and that their melatonin levels began to rise 2.6 hours earlier.

    "Weekend exposure to natural light was sufficient to achieve 69 percent of the shift in circadian timing we previously reported after a week's exposure to natural light," Wright stated.

    Getting back in sync

    So, what does all of this mean for sleep? Essentially, the two studies showed that not being exposed to artificial light allowed participants’ bodies to alter according to the time of the year and their bodies’ natural needs.

    When living life normally with artificial light, the body’s internal clock and natural rhythms are often thrown off, which can impact when hormones are released, when we sleep and wake up, and even our appetite and metabolism. However, the studies show that just one weekend of camping away from that environment is enough to put our bodies back in sync. Wright hopes the results will help guide building and city design to help encourage natural light to promote health.

    "Our findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring more natural sunlight into the modern built environment and to work with lighting companies to incorporate tunable lighting that could change across the day and night to enhance performance, health and well-being," he said.

    The full study has been published in Current Biology.

    There have been countless “cures” proposed for those who have trouble sleeping. A cursory internet search will suggest anything from sipping warm milk to t...

    Having trouble keeping your New Year's resolutions?

    Researchers say getting more sleep can help consumers achieve their goals

    We’re not quite through a month of the new year, but many consumers will have inevitably lost track of their New Year’s resolutions. While we may promise to eat healthier, exercise more, quit bad habits, and meet job goals at the beginning of the year, it takes resolve and a strong will to stick to it.

    However, researchers at the University of Michigan say that there is one thing that consumers can do to make keeping resolutions easier. Their study found that getting the right amount of sleep can help people achieve their goals by improving overall performance.

    Achieving goals

    Dr. Cathy Goldstein explains that not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can make consumers feel like their poor performance is normal. However, getting the recommended amount of sleep can help you accomplish a variety of goals. They include:

    Eating healthier. People are much more likely to eat junk food when they’re not getting enough sleep. The researchers found that those who stay up late into the night tend to snack more and weigh more, on average. Additionally, those who aren’t sleeping well tend to make poorer meal choices during the day, which can lead to weight gain.

    Exercising more. Anyone could tell you that going to the gym takes willpower, but it takes even more when you feel exhausted. Lack of sleep makes decreases our speed, strength, and endurance, and the physical payoffs we gain from going to the gym are reduced if our bodies aren’t ready for the workout.

    Getting a promotion. If you’re looking to impress your boss, it’s important that you get enough sleep. The researchers say that those who do tend to be more alert, motivated, and cheerful – attributes that are compromised when we’re tired. Further, the researchers say that being tired can lead to bad work habits, like taking extended breaks and wasting company time on social media or entertainment sites.

    Improving your relationship: Irritability is a trademark attribute of not getting enough sleep, and it can be a huge negative if you’re working through issues with your spouse or significant other. Unfortunately, your mood isn’t likely to improve if you’re not getting enough sleep, which will further harm the healing process.

    Quitting smoking: Previous studies have connected lack of sleep with increased nicotine dependence. While the reason behind the association is unknown, it’s a great hindrance to those looking to quit a smoking habit. Lack of sleep can also lead to poorer decision making, so quitting the habit for health reasons may be harder to justify.

    Encouraging healthy sleep

    To help consumers keep their resolutions and reach optimal health, the researchers have provided some tips for getting optimal amounts of sleep. First, they say that adults should try to get seven to eight hours every night, even on the weekends. Going to bed at the same time every night can also help put your body on a good schedule.

    Second, consumers are encouraged to stop using electronic devices right before going to bed. This includes the use of phones, tablets, and computers. “You’re most sensitive to bright light in the middle of the night. Even low levels can have a negative effect,” said one researcher.

    Finally, consumers should strive to keep their bedrooms as dark as possible. Installing blackout blinds or curtains can help block outside light sources, and finding replacements for electronic clocks or other devices that light up can promote a better sleeping environment.

    We’re not quite through a month of the new year, but many consumers will have inevitably lost track of their New Year’s resolutions. While we may promise t...

    U.S. economy loses $411 billion every year due to a tired workforce, study finds

    Researchers say sleep deprivation leads to lower productivity and higher mortality risk

    Numerous studies have extolled the benefits of getting a full night’s sleep; those who do so have been found to have more energy and better overall health due to better body self-regulation. Unfortunately, many of us continue to not get enough sleep at night, and new research suggests that health deficits are not the only thing we have to worry about.

    Researchers at RAND Europe – a not-for-profit organization – have found that sleep deprivation costs the U.S. economy an average of $411 billion every year. They say this is due to higher mortality risk and lower productivity levels from employees who go to work tired.

    “Our study shows that the effects from a lack of sleep are massive. Sleep deprivation not only influences an individual’s health and wellbeing but has a significant impact on a nation’s economy, with lower productivity levels and a higher mortality risk among workers,” said Marco Hafner, lead author and researcher of the study.

    Economic losses

    The study, entitled “Why Sleep Matters – The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep," analyzed the economic impact of insufficient sleep in five countries. While Canada, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. are all burdened with billions in losses due to lack of sleep, the U.S. beats them all with a loss of $411 billion, 2.28% of the country’s GDP.

    The researchers note that if workers get up to one hour of extra sleep per night, it could make a huge economic difference. They say that individuals who get between seven and nine hours every night – dubbed the “healthy daily sleep range” -- can lower their mortality risk by 7%.

    “Improving individual sleep habits and duration has huge implications, with our research showing that simple changes can make a big difference. For example, if those who sleep under six hours a night increase their sleep to between six and seven hours a night, this could add $226.4 billion to the U.S. economy,” said Hafner.

    Recommendations

    The researchers make several recommendations that they believe would improve sleep outcomes. For individuals, they say that setting consistent wake-up times will help the body stay regulated. Limiting the use of electronic items before bed and getting physical exercise during the day are also key points.

    Further, they suggest that employers design and build brighter workspaces, provide facilities for daytime naps, monitor and assess psychosocial risks connected to sleep loss, and discourage the use of electronic devices after the work day has concluded. Public authorities can also help by encouraging health professionals and employers to provide sleep-related help.

    You can view the full report of the study here.

    Numerous studies have extolled the benefits of getting a full night’s sleep; those who do so have been found to have more energy and better overall health...

    Study finds one crucial factor to marriage satisfaction

    Researchers say getting enough rest at night is the key

    A study conducted at Florida State University has found one crucial component for marriage satisfaction. No, the solution doesn’t involve more communication or spicing up the relationship with romantic gestures; all spouses need to do is get more sleep at night.

    Researchers have found that husbands and wives who sleep more than they do on an average night are more satisfied with their marriage the following day. Findings show that getting adequate amounts of rest can lead to healthier mental states and more positive feelings towards your partner.

    “The universality of our findings is important. That is, we know all people need sleep. Regardless of the stage at which a couple is in their relationship or the cultural context in which they’re embedded, each member of the couple can be adversely affected by not getting enough sleep,” said researcher Heather Maranges.

    Importance of sleep

    The study highlights how important sleep is to the average person’s well-being. Getting enough rest at night affects a number of internal mental processes, such as self-regulation and self-control. Having low levels of either can put a strain on any relationship, and statistics show that they have.

    “Up to one-third of married or cohabiting adults report that sleep problems burden their relationship,” the researchers point out in their paper, “The Rested Relationship: Sleep Benefits in Marital Evaluations.

    The findings also indicate that getting enough sleep is a two-way deal for couples. In other words, if one person is getting enough sleep and the other is not, then both spouses will feel the negative effects. Marriage is, after all, a partnership; negative feelings experienced by one person is bound to affect both parties.

    The full study has been published in the Journal of Family Psychology

    A study conducted at Florida State University has found one crucial component for marriage satisfaction. No, the solution doesn’t involve more communicatio...

    Poor sleeping habits increases risk of inflammation, study finds

    The condition contributes to many medical problems, including depression

    We recently reported how poor sleeping habits could lead to an increased risk of diabetes in men, but new findings suggest that there are additional consequences that can affect everyone.

    Researchers at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the University of California have found that getting too much or too little sleep can increase markers for inflammation, a serious health concern.

    “It is important to highlight that both too much and too little sleep appears to be associated with inflammation, a process that contributes to depression as well as many medical illnesses,” said Dr. John Krystal.

    Higher risk of inflammation

    Experts have long suspected that poor sleeping habits contributed to medical problems with inflammation. Prior studies have, for example, found associations between sleeping disorders, such as insomnia, and increased risk of inflammatory disease. Other adverse health conditions, like hypertension and type 2 diabetes, have also been connected.

    In this study, the researchers examined information on over 50,000 people who had participated in other clinical studies. In order to gauge indicators of inflammation, they looked at levels of CRP and IL-6 in the body; high levels of each of these factors would indicate high levels of inflammation.

    Additionally, the researchers checked records to assess how much sleep each participant was getting. After analyzing the information, they found that participants who had regularly interrupted sleep, insomnia, or long sleep durations (over 8 hours) had higher levels of CRP and IL-6 compared to those who slept normally (7-8 hours per night).

    Assessing risk

    The researchers believe that their findings should change how the medical community assesses risk with sleeping disorders. One researcher, Michael Irwin, believes that these kinds of problems should be regarded as behavioral risk factors for inflammation.

    Irwin also states that having targeted therapies that address sleep behavior may go a long way towards reducing risk for inflammation. “Together with diet and physical activity, sleep health represents a third component in the promotion of health-span,” he said.

    The full study has been published in the journal Biological Psychiatry

    We recently reported how poor sleeping habits could lead to an increased risk of diabetes in men, but new findings suggest that there are additional conseq...