January 5, 2011

Miles to Go in Understanding Sleep

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Lying awake at night takes a bigger toll than expected

(dailyRx News) A study from the University of Colorado finds that the body does not save as much energy during sleep as was expected, and sleep deprivation can be measured in "miles."

An estimated 70 million Americans suffer some form of sleep loss or sleep disorder. The amount of sleep an individual gets has a direct effect on energy and overall health and has even been connected to a person's likelihood of alcohol abuse, tobacco use and obesity.

Even the smallest difference in the amount of sleep one gets can affect their health. Individuals who sleep fewer than 6 hours and those who sleep more than 9 are at increased risk of poor lifestyle choices. Those who manage 7 to 8 hours of sleep on average are at a lower risk of complications.

A study by the University of Colorado has analyzed the way the body reacts to sleep and has found that missing one night of sleep is equal to walking about two miles. Eight hours of sleep saves more energy for people than was previously thought.

Test subjects were monitored and tightly controlled for several days, going from a normal sleeping pattern to being sleep deprived. Researchers studied the body's reaction to sleeping, especially its recovery time after being kept awake for an unusually long period of time.

The findings show that simply being awake and in bed still takes a toll on the body's energy, which may have implications for those with insomnia and sleep apnea, in which people wake up numerous times throughout the night. Sleep apnea poses a particular concern because of the constant disturbances to the body and its recovery process.

The scientists are still puzzled as to why the body doesn't save more energy while asleep, but attribute energy expenditure while at rest to possible immune functions and brain strengthening. Their primary interest now is understanding the link between sleep loss and weight problems.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
January 5, 2011

Last Updated:
January 5, 2011