Many people understand that they need good nutrition in order to be healthy and that they need to exercise in order to keep their body fit.
Few people understand the importance of sleep as the third pillar of good health it is during sleep that many critical things happen for the brain.
We actually remove toxins that have built up because of burning of energy during the daytime and when we go to sleep those toxins are flushed from our brain because the rate of flow of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain increases 20-fold during sleep it is also during sleep that we integrate.
The new information that we have learned with information that we had previously learned and that mainly happens during rapid eye movement sleep which is a sleep stage associated with vivid dreaming it’s not just the brain that needs sleep but even the body needs sleep so if we don’t get the sleep that we need the increase risk of cardiovascular disease in fact people who don’t get an adequate amount of sleep.
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At night have a three hundred percent increased risk of calcification of the coronary arteries over a five-year period as compared to those who are getting enough sleep.
Many different functions are affected by sleep even the immune system for example if you’re coming in for your flu shot in the fall and you haven’t gotten an adequate amount of sleep in the previous week you’ll only have half the antibody response as if you’ve been getting enough sleep the metabolic system is also very sensitive to sleep deficiency.
When we haven’t been getting enough sleep we become more hungry because somewhere in evolution sleep got linked with appetite when we’re not getting enough sleep let’s say sleeping four or five hours a night instead of the seven to eight hours a night that we need then we release more of the hormone ghrelin which makes us hungry or less of the hormone leptin that makes us satisfied with what we have eaten and if we go on a diet.
Let’s say reducing the amount of food that we’re getting if we’re not getting enough sleep when we’re on that diet then 75% of the weight that we lose we’ll be in lean body mass rather than in fat because the body is squirreling away all the calories that it has into fat because it’s in starvation mode when we are not get enough sleep it also adversely impacts the effectiveness of the insulin that we release so the insulin becomes less effective and within we can in our laboratory here at the Brigham Women’s Hospital.
We have demonstrated that if we restrict sleep and shift the timing of when sleep is occurring we can actually many of our healthy normal volunteers go into almost a pre-diabetic State within about two or three weeks of being on that the schedule so we’re doing this fundamental research to try to understand the risk factors associated with illnesses metabolic diseases such as diabetes as the price of electricity has dropped our exposure to artificial light has increased per person by about tenfold even over that 50-year period and that increased exposure to artificial light essentially tricks the brain so that we’ve tricked the brain into thinking the dusk instead of happening at six o’clock in the evening or seven o’clock in the evening is happening at midnight or later so the brain is sending out a strong drive to keep us awake at eleven o’clock at night twelve o’clock at night one o’clock in the morning and that leads to chronic insomnia.
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In many individuals and in many others they don’t have insomnia but they just can’t sleep more than four or five six hours a night because the surge for wakefulness that always precedes dusk is now occurring so late in the day the techniques that we developed here at the Brigham Women’s Hospital for resetting circadian rhythms with light have been used for more than two decades for all the astronauts before they before they launch into space to synchronize their circadian rhythms with the schedule timing of the launch and that was a direct application for our research program here at the Brigham to the space program.
We’re very excited about our new program to try to understand the pathophysiology of obstructive sleep apnea so everybody calls the condition with the same name.
It would be a bit like saying you know someone has cancer but there are many different types of cancers and it turns out that there are many different ways that an individual can have the condition of obstructive sleep apnea,
So we have a research program here that is on the cutting edge trying to understand the different ways that a person can have obstructive sleep apnea that will result in their having that condition because these different these different physiologic changes and pathophysiologic.
Changes may need different treatment approaches and so we’re hoping to develop a hold a series of treatments for the condition through this ground breaking research that’s happening here at the Brigham we’re also trying to develop biomarkers in which we can look at epigenetic and other metabolomic markers that that may herald the presence of sleep deficiency because it would be great if we had a blood test and we could identify just from a drop of blood whether or not someone is deficient in sleep because then in the same ways we can say do you have your your blood test shows that you’re an increased risk for heart disease we could say your blood test shows that you are deficient of sleep and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it and maybe we need to do a sleep study or some other thing to try to understand why.