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Sleepy Genes

The Daydream Believer needs a nap beneath bluebird wings and dreads the 6 a.m. alarm. Sleepy Jean’s feeling groggy, too. “How much, baby, do we really need?” the Monkees crooned.

The lyrics hint at what was might have been on the writer’s mind—more sleep! (Trivia bonus: The song was written by John Stewart of the Kingston Trio.)

Makes sense that a young pop group might be short on sleep. And hey, hey—Davey Jones & Co. were immortal then. But even growing up doesn’t mean we always get the message about what’s important for our well-being.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 30% of U.S. adults today regularly get six or fewer hours of sleep. If you’re one of them, be aware that chronic sleep deprivation can literally damage your genes. That’s nothing to croon about.

Keeping Time

The way genes “express” in your body—or turn on and off—changes when you get too little sleep. Losing sleep disrupts genes’ natural circadian cycles, and that affects multiple biological systems at the molecular level. In a recent study, genes involved in inflammation, immunity, and protein damage were activated in test subjects who were restricted to sleeping an average of 5.7 hours a night for 12 nights. Those who were in bed for 10 hours and slept for an average of 8.5 did not show this pattern.

Chronic sleep deprivation—shorting sleep while telling yourself weekend naps or caffeine make it okay—expresses itself in your body, too. This hazardous habit means higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and depression. In the short-term, too, you’ll function below par, handle stress poorly, and feel miserable.

Longer Sleep–the Long View

So if the temptation to live like a Monkee kicks in too often…remind yourself: it’s not worth it. You may be a daydream believer, but the health effects of habitually skimping on sleep can become a nightmare later on.

How to persuade yourself to create a new habit and hit the hay earlier? If you can, treat yourself to a wonderful organic mattress, customized just for your body. And choose to value your sleep. Comfortable, regular, adequate sleep is not a luxury for the few, but a necessity for everyone—for long-term good health.

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