How can sleep affect your health? What are the conditions that are caused by lack of sleep? Find out the answers to these questions and more as we look at some of the ways poor sleep can affect your overall health. We'll also discuss the lifestyle changes you can make to improve your sleep and ensure you get adequate rest each night, helping you feel rested and ready to tackle the day ahead.
Poor Sleep Affect Your Heart Health
Many studies have linked poor sleep to an increased risk of heart disease. According to a 2016 report from the American Heart Association, concluded that both too little or too much sleep, and sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnoea, were associated with increased risk of heart disease, even when adjusting for other risk factors such as weight, smoking, age, and ethnicity.
Ongoing sleep deprivation has not only been associated with high blood pressure (hypertension), a known risk factor for heart disease, it's also been linked with higher levels of chemicals linked to inflammation. Although it hasn't been proven that inflammation causes heart disease, higher levels of inflammation are typical in people living with the condition.
Lack of Sleep Leads to Poor Memory
Research has shown that when sleep deprived, our brains experience micro-awakenings that interrupt memory consolidation. As a result, it's easier to forget what we've learned. If you're worried about how insufficient sleep can make you feel in day-to-day life, don't worry; studies have shown that getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night leads to impaired daytime functioning in young adults. If you find yourself frequently tired at work or school due to lack of sleep at night, consider changing your schedule to get more rest. You'll be surprised by how much more energy and motivation you have during the day when you get good sleep at night!
Lack of Sleep Increases Risk of Diabetes
A study published in PLOS Medicine found that people who sleep less than six hours per night are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers followed more than 300,000 people for about 10 years. People who slept six hours or less each night were 19 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes during that period than those who got seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Those who slept nine or more hours each night were 16 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes during that period. Sleeping less than six hours per night is associated with lower levels of good HDL cholesterol and higher fibrinogen levels, both of which are known risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Lack of Sleep Increases Stress Levels
If you have sleep issues, chances are stress levels aren't far behind. In fact, insomnia is a common symptom of people dealing with chronic stress. When we don't get enough shut-eye, our bodies react by producing hormones that raise our blood pressure and heart rate to prepare us for fight or flight. These hormones also increase our production of cortisol—the stress hormone—and slow down other systems in our body that play a role in keeping our organs healthy. Research has shown that when these changes happen regularly, they raise a person's risk for heart disease and high blood pressure over time, especially in combination with other unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
Lack of Sleep Leads to Obesity
A recent study, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggests a person's weight can be affected by sleep. Researchers found people who slept less than seven hours a night were more likely to have a higher BMI and weight gain over time. Although experts say most people need seven to nine hours of sleep each night for good health, nearly 40 percent of Americans don't get enough rest. In fact, sleeping too much also increases risk factors for obesity by reducing leptin levels, a hormone that controls feelings of fullness.
Poor Sleep Affect Your Immune System
For example, people who aren't getting enough sleep tend to have a weakened immune system and may be more susceptible to colds and infections. This is large because sleep affects how you respond to stress. Your body releases a hormone called cortisol that helps fight infection during times of stress, but if your cortisol levels are too high for too long, it will weaken your immune system over time. In addition, sleeplessness has been linked to chronic inflammation, which also weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes. Also, consider that lack of sleep decreases feelings of fullness after eating—which means you might not be able to resist those midnight snacks.
What are some natural ways to sleep better?
For many people, medicine is necessary to help with insomnia. But there are also several lifestyle changes you can make to sleep better. First, get off of technology at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The bright light on smartphones and tablets tricks our brains into thinking it's still daytime, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Consider switching off devices an hour before bedtime or using an app that filters out blue light during that time. Reducing nighttime noise and establishing a regular sleep schedule will also help you get better sleep at night.
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In this video by TED-Ed, Claudia Aguirre covers details about what would happen if you didn't sleep: