What if I told you sleeping more may be the answer to all of your problems? Okay, that may be a stretch, but it might be the answer to some. Surprisingly, a lack of sleep isn’t just making you feel tired but may also contribute to an increased risk of illness, slower brain processing, and weight gain. If you were looking for an excuse to sleep more, we have just what you need.
Sleep and Disease Risk
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard, lack of sleep is associated with medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.1These chronic conditions may even shorten life expectancy. Studies have shown that potentially harmful effects of sleep deprivation are typically associated with stress. This can lead to an increase in blood pressure, inflammation, and difficulty controlling blood glucose levels. Specifically, hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, and irregular heartbeat seem to be more common in individuals with sleep complications. Sleep apnea in particular may be considered a predictor of cardiovascular disease.2
Reduced Cognitive Function
The American Insomnia Survey from 2012 discovered shocking results. It is estimated that insomnia was associated with 7.2% of all costly workplace accidents and rack up around $31.1 billion annually.3 A sleep deprived-brain simply can’t function to the best of its ability. In fact, if you haven’t slept, your ability to learn new things may drop by up to 40%.4 This is because sleeping helps strengthen your mind as you snooze. Sleep is also responsible for strengthening memories and linking new memories with older ones. Adequate sleep isn’t just important for your health but the safety of others as well. Harvard reveals that drowsy driving causes 1 million crashes, 500,000 injuries, and 8,000 deaths each year in the United States. They even point out that just one night of sleeplessness can impair judgment as much as a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent!6 Don’t pass up your sleep tonight.
Trying to drop a few pounds but can’t seem to shed the weight? Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation may contribute to a modest increase in future weight gain and incident obesity.5 Specifically, people who typically sleep less than six hours per night are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI). Individuals who sleep eight hours per night seem to have a lower BMI. This may be due to the fact that our bodies secrete appetite-suppressing hormones as well as energy metabolism and glucose processing hormones during sleep.1
Don’t let a lack of sleep get in the way of your health. There are numerous ways to encourage healthy sleeping habits such as turning off electronics before bed, going to bed at the same time every night, and following a consistent exercise routine (early in the day or evening based on how exercise makes you feel). Certain supplements may also promote sleep such as calcium and magnesium (or a warm cup of milk before bed), valerian root, passionflower, and L-tryptophan. It is also important to consider that too much sleep is associated with poor health as well.1 The CDC recommends at least seven hours or more per night for individuals over 18 years old.7 If you still have difficulty sleeping, always discuss additional options with your health care provider. Sweet dreams!
- Sleep and Disease Risk. Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk. Updated December 18, 2007. Accessed December 13, 2017.
- Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html. Updated July 1, 2013. Accessed December 13, 2017.
- Shahly V, Berglund PA, Coulouvrat C, et al. The associations of insomnia with costly workplace accidents and errors: results from the America Insomnia Survey. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012;69(10):1054-63.
- Sleep On It. National Institutes of Health: News in Health. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/sleep-it. Published April 2013. Accessed December 14, 2017.
- Patel SR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol. 2006;164(10):947-54.
- Judgement and Safety. Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/judgment-safety. Reviewed December 16, 2008. Accessed December 14, 2017.
- How Much Sleep Do I Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html. Updated March 2, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017.