How lack of sleep can affect your health

How lack of sleep can affect your health

Consistent, quality sleep often goes overlooked in health and wellness regimens, perhaps because sleep is seen as a passive activity. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 63 percent of American adults do not get enough sleep. That's an alarming figure, because deep, uninterrupted sleep is essential to healthy living and has a huge effect on quality of life.

First and foremost, sleep helps the brain work properly. It allows us to learn and retain new information, solve problems and pay better attention to the world around us. Lack of sleep can impair your ability to make decisions, learn new things and control your emotions and behavior. Sleep deficiency is also linked to mental illnesses like depression.

Sleep has a physical impact on our bodies, as well. It can influence metabolism, which is why lack of sleep is linked to chronic disease and obesity—both major concerns in the United States. Some experts believe that plenty of sleep can be just as important as diet and exercise when it comes to reducing your risk for diabetes.

Diabetes and obesity are linked to another disease: sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing while sleeping, resulting in disrupted sleep. A recent study has found that sleep apnea may also worsen diabetes. It’s a vicious cycle of disordered sleep, chronic disease and unhealthy bodyweight.

Sleep is also important to the immune system's ability fight infection. The same substances the immune system produces to fight disease also cause fatigue, according to a Harvard sleep study. It’s no coincidence that people who sleep more during an infection get well faster than those who do not.

Due to the damaging health effects of poor sleep, it is associated with decreased life expectancy. Sleeping less than five hours per night increases mortality risk from all causes by roughly 15 percent, according to data from three cross-sectional Harvard epidemiological studies.

Though it's important to pay attention to your own personal sleep needs, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night as part of a healthy lifestyle. Any less than that can lead to some serious effects on your physical and mental wellbeing.

Posted: 3/12/2015 by Goshen Health
Filed under: health, sleep

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