The relationship between sleep and overall physical health1 is well-documented. Sleep allows both body and brain to recover during the night. A good night’s rest ensures you’ll feel refreshed and alert when you wake up each day.
Sleep deficiency will not only leave you feeling tired, but can increase your risk for a variety of diseases and health problems2. Included in these are obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Too little sleep also poses a threat to your physical safety. Studies suggest up to 19% of U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis
Sleep plays a vital role in your mental and physical wellbeing. Different processes that occur during sleep help to promote healthy brain activity and maintain good general health. For children and teenagers, sleep is also key for proper growth and development.
Sleep deficiency can interfere with these bodily processes. The word “sleep deficiency” identifies the inability to get enough high-quality sleep. This may occur due to sleep deprivation, or simply not getting enough sleep, or there can be other underlying reasons, like a sleep disorder or circadian rhythm misalignment. Too little of high-quality sleep means the body has less time to recover at night time. This can also lower your body’s defenses against diseases and medical ailments.
The effects of sleep deprivation on physical health include:
Obesity: Studies have found sleep loss can increase your risk of becoming obese. Your body produces and regulates various hormones during sleep. These include ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry, and leptin, which makes you feel full. Lack of sleep can cause your ghrelin levels to increase and leptin levels to diminish, meaning you are more likely to feel excessively hungry and overeat.
Heart Problems: Blood pressure is generally reduced while asleep. Thus, decreased sleep can cause a higher daily average blood circulation pressure, which inturn may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Inadequate sleep in addition has been linked to coronary artery calcification3, a major predictor for coronary heart disease.
Insulin management: Insulin is an all natural bodily hormone that regulates your glucose (or blood glucose) level. Sleep deprivation make a difference how your body reacts to insulin and cause your glucose level to rise, which in turn puts you at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes4. Similarly, reduced sleep or poor sleep quality may adversely affect glucose control in known diabetics.
Immunohealth: During sleep, there’s a peak in the number of certain T-cells, various cytokines, and other important the different parts of your immune system5. Not getting enough sleep can affect how the immune system responds to viruses and other infections. Long-term decrease in sleep can also lead to persistent low-level inflammation throughout your body, which underlies many chronic health concerns.
Cognitive Performance: An excellent night’s sleep can increase your ability to concentrate, be creative, and find out new skills. Individuals who don’t get enough rest often have a hard time paying attention and are more likely to commit errors at the job or in school.
Memory Consolidation: Sleep is essential for processing memories6. Through the third non-rapid eye movement stage of your sleep cycle – also known as slow-wave sleep – the human brain commences organizing and consolidating memories. The rapid eye movement stage that follows could help to cement these memories. Because of this, not getting enough sleep can affect your ability to remember important details.
Mood: People who don’t get enough sleep may have a harder time controlling their emotions, making good decisions, and dealing with different factors of daily life. Sleep deficiency can also lead to mental medical issues, such as depression and increase one’s risk of suicide.
Growth and Development: For children and adolescents, deep sleep triggers the discharge of hormones that promote healthy growth, increase muscle mass, regulate puberty and fertility, and repair cells and tissues. Children who don’t receive enough sleep may feel angry or sad, have a problem with school work, and have a hard time engaging using their peers in positive ways.
Safety: Drowsy driving7 is a major road hazard for U.S. drivers. Sleep deficiency can reduce one’s reaction time and lead to falling asleep behind the wheel. People who don’t get enough sleep are also at higher risk of being associated with a workplace accident.
The amount of sleep you need changes with age. Newborns and infants require approximately 15 to 17 hours of sleep per night, whereas teenagers can usually manage with eight to ten hours. Adults between your ages of 18 and 64 generally need seven to nine hours. After reaching 65, this amount drops slightly to seven or eight hours.
The Importance of Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a catchall term for practices and behaviors that influence sleep quality and duration. It could include bedtime and wake-up routines, plus your diet, physical exercise, and other aspects of lifestyle.
Key components of good sleep hygiene include:
Consistent Sleep Schedule: You must make an effort to go to bed and get up at the same times each day, including on the weekends and when you’re traveling. Many people find a consistent bedtime routine can help them reach bed on time.
Prioritizing Sleep: Adequate sleep can be tough to juggle along with family life, work commitments, and socializing. However, you may want to occasionally forgo these activities in order to get enough rest.
Responsible Napping: Napping during the day can greatly hinder the volume of sleep you get at night. Limit your naps to the morning and early afternoon. You should also avoid napping for longer than 20 minutes8, as this may make you feel groggy and unfocused when you awaken.
Relaxing Bedroom Environment: Think of your bedroom as a sleep sanctuary. You must take measures to keep a sleep-friendly bedroom, such as blocking light with thick curtains, utilizing a white noise machine or earplugs to drown aloud noises, and setting your bedroom thermostat to 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius), which many experts agree is the ideal temperature for sleep.
Healthy Habits: Moderate exercise and a healthy diet plan can transform your sleep quality and help you sleep longer at night. People who have a hard time getting enough sleep should avoid smoking altogether, and also refrain from drinking alcohol or consuming caffeine in the hours leading up to bed. Dining late at night – especially large meals – can negatively impact sleep as well.
If you experience long-term sleep deficiency, you should consider scheduling a scheduled appointment with your doctor or another credentialed medical expert. Physicians can offer valuable insights about sleep health insurance and hygiene and, if needed, perform tests to judge for a sleep disorder.