We all know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep; a lack of proper rest can decrease our overall quality of life, or even lead to serious illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), lack of adequate rest can lead to diabetes, depression and even high blood pressure. And while it is true that sometimes a night happens where we just don’t get what we need, regularly getting six hours or less of sleep per night can be dangerous.
Fortunately, researchers have discovered that brief, daytime naps may help to protect individuals against the harmful effects of poor sleep habits. During these naps, it was found that normal levels of hormones and proteins are restored after having been depleted at night. These chemicals are linked with stress and the immune system, which protects our body from illness. When the immune system does not work properly, it puts us at risk for everything from a common cold to cancer.
During the study, French researchers restricted the sleep of 11 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 32. The men were only allowed to sleep for two hours on the first night of the study. The next day, the team found the men to have decreased levels of a protein called interleukin-6, which fights viruses in our bodies. Additionally, the men had increased levels of norepinephrine, which is a stress hormone responsible for blood sugar, heart rate, and blood pressure.
The second night of the study, the men again only had two hours of sleep. However the next day, they all took two 30-minute naps. After the naps, the researchers found that the men’s interleukin-6 and norepinephrine levels were back to normal. The results of the study suggest that a nap may have the power to reverse the hormonal effects of a poor night’s sleep.
The research team believes the findings could support the development of strategies to assist those who often lack sleep at night. This could especially help chronically sleep-deprived people, such as people who work night shifts or odd hours. With millions of Americans suffering from some sort of sleep issue, this study may be one of the keys to finally feeling rested.
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