Everyone likes to sleep but many can only dream about good night of sleep. Approximately 50 to 70 million adults in USA have a sleep disorder (CDC, 2015). One common sleep disorder is insomnia which is characterized by an inability to initiate or maintain sleep. It may also take the form of early morning awakening in which the individual awakens several hours early and is unable to resume sleeping. There other common symptom of insomnia is daytime fatigue.
In general, adults need about 7- 8 hours of sleep per night, and adolescents need an hour more. During sleep, internal organs rest and recover, tissues are repaired, and muscle grows. Also, protein synthesis primarily occurs during sleep. Moreover, hormones that regulate appetite control, stress, growth and metabolism and other bodily functions are released when we are sleeping. Furthermore, when we are sleeping memory consolidations occur, allowing for the formation and storage for new memories, which is essential for learning new information.
There are a couple of other benefits of quality sleep like:
- Increased energy to make beneficial lifestyle choices,
- Strengthen immune system,
- Heightened alertness, focus and creativity and
- Improved mood by reducing anxiety, irritability, and mental exhaustion.
The cost of poor sleep is much greater than many people think. It may have profound consequences for long-term health. Below are some examples of the relationship between sleep habits and risk for developing certain medical conditions.
- Weight gain / obesity – studies show that people who sleep less than six hours per night are more likely to have a higher than average body mass index (BMI). People who sleep eight hours have the lowest. During sleep, our bodies secrete hormones that help to control appetite, energy metabolism and glucose processing. If we are sleeping insufficient hours per night, hormonal balance is upset. For example, inadequate sleep is associated with lower level of leptin (hormone that alerts brain that we had enough food), as well as higher level of ghrelin (hormone that stimulate our appetite). So, because of poor sleeping we may experience food craving even after we have eaten enough number of calories. A Poor night of sleep can cause a feeling of fatigue and lead us to skip our daily exercise session.
- Diabetes – a study showed that insufficient sleep may lead to type 2 diabetes. It was shown that a group of people who slept between 4 to 8 hours per night processed glucose more slowly than they did when they were permitted to sleep 12 hours. Also, many epidemiological studies have revealed that people who usually slept less than five hours per night have a greatly increased risk of having or developing diabetes.
- Cardiovascular disease and cardiometabolic disorders – sleep deficits likely increased the risk of heart disease through their influence on several important variables, including body composition, blood pressure, blood sugar regulation, blood lipid level and inflammation. It was observed that hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease and irregular heartbeats are more common among people with sleep disordered than their peers without sleep abnormalities. The other study showed that single night of inadequate sleep-in people who have existing hypertension can cause elevated blood pressure throughout the following day.
- Mood disorders – depression, anxiety and mental distress - people suffering from depression may sleep either too little or too much and people with anxiety often experience disturbed or inadequate sleep. Lack of adequate sleep is makes people more emotionally fragile. Fatigue can alter perception, making small problems seem much larger. The study showed that people who slept for four and half hours per night reported feeling more stressed, angry, and mentally exhausted. Moreover, another study showed that people who slept four hours per night were less optimistic and social. However, it was reported that when the people returned to a normal sleep schedule, all the symptoms improved dramatically.
- Immune system effects – too little sleep triggers an increase in the immune system signaling molecules (cytokines) that lead to inflammation. While acute inflammation provides helpful responses to injury, systemic inflammation can lead to a variety of chronic health problems. Excess inflammation is involved in artery disease, which contributes to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. Inflammation is also associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and depression.
- Cognitive disorders and dementia- sleep deficits worsen many cognitive functions, including memory, reasoning and decision making. During deep sleep, the brain conducts a cleaning process that removes waste products that have built up during the day.
- Overtraining – sleep is essential for recovery from exercise. Without recovery, exercise efforts may be less effective. Exercise itself stresses the body; it is the recovery that allows the body to build an adaptive response.
Summarizing in one sentence, lack of sleep can cause a lot of problems for your health and wellbeing.
Please let me know if you want to talk more about sleep.
All the best
CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/cant_sleep.html
Exercise, A. C. (2019). The Professional's guise to health and wellness coaching. San Diego: ACE.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt .