The cost of poor sleep is much greater than many people think!
Research has revealed that people who consistently fail to get enough sleep are at increased risk of chronic disease.
Treating sleep as a priority, and not as a luxury, maybe an important step in preventing a number of chronic medical conditions.
We have all felt the effects of a bad nights sleep – fatigue, bad mood, lack of focus…. You may have heard that lack of sleep on a regular basis is associated with long term health consequences including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. But did you know that habitually sleeping for more than nine hours is also associated with poor health?
Sleep habits have been shown to affect numerous systems within the body:
During sleep, our bodies secrete hormones that help control appetite, metabolism and glucose processing. Stress hormone production, cortisol, goes up, we can’t effectively process glucose and insulin spikes resulting in cravings for sweet foods for a quick energy boost. Unhealthy sleep patterns, therefore, disrupt the metabolism and result in feelings of fatigue which leave us too tired to burn off extra calories with exercise.
Because sleep is involved in the body’s ability to process glucose, people who sleep less than five hours per night have been found to be at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
After a single night of inadequate sleep for a person who has existing hypertension can cause elevated blood pressure throughout the following day. This explains the link between poor sleep and cardiovascular disease and stroke. People who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are also at increased risk of developing hypertension and heart disease because, in addition to sleep disturbances, sleep apnea results in a brief surge in blood pressure each time the person awakens. Over time this leads to chronic elevation of blood pressure.
Given that one night of poor sleep can result in irritability it is conceivable that chronic insufficient sleep leads to long-term mood disorders. Chronic sleep difficulties are associated with depression, anxiety and mental distress. In many cases, sorting out sleep alleviates many of these symptoms.
It is natural for people to go to bed when they are sick. The immune system kicks up a gear during sleep producing what your body needs to fight infection. Chronic lack of sleep will therefore leave your immune system offline and make you vulnerable to infection and less equipped to deal with it.
Alcohol use has been found to be more prevalent among people who sleep poorly. Alcohol acts as a mild sedative and is commonly used as a sleep aid but the sedative nature of alcohol is only temporary. As the body processes the alcohol, parts of the brain that affect arousal are activated leading to awakenings and sleep problems later in the night.
Given all the potential adverse effects of insufficient sleep, it is not surprising that sleeping less than five hours a night is associated with an increased risk of mortality and a shortened life expectancy.
Concerned about your sleep habits?
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