Yes, You Really Can Sleep Yourself Healthy
It’s so easy to sacrifice a few hours of sleep in order to get a bit more work done, catch up on domestic chores, cram for an exam, or party with friends. But sleep should not be seen as being expendable. Getting into a poor sleep pattern can significantly increase your risk of developing serious medical problems, including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Prolonged lack of sleep has even been associated with a shortened lifespan.
Regularly getting insufficient sleep has been shown to alter insulin resistance, which is linked to a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, studies have also found that improving your sleep patterns can have the opposite effect – positively influencing blood sugar control and reducing the effects of Type 2 diabetes.
Healthy sleep helps to maintain a balance between the hormones that makes you feel hungry (ghrelin) and full (leptin). Studies show that people who regularly sleep for fewer than six hours a night are much more likely to be overweight, and have a higher BMI than those who sleep for between seven and nine hours.
Research makes positive links between poor sleep patterns and a significant increase in the risk of coronary artery calcification, which in turn increases the likelihood of heart attack and heart disease.
Compromised Immune Function
Sleep deprivation increases the levels of many inflammatory mediators, which may decrease your ability to resist infection. Studies show that people who regularly sleep less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to develop colds than those who sleep eight hours or more.
Compromised Cognitive Function
Compelling research shows that if you’re regularly sleeping for fewer than between seven and eight hours a night, you are more than likely being kept awake and alert during the day by adrenalin, and not because you are properly rested. Adrenaline is a stress hormone, which can wreak havoc on your body when it’s present on an almost continual basis.
During sleep, your brain processes complex information, creates and consolidates your memories, learns and remembers how to accomplish tasks and clears out the toxins that have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Here’s a simple test you can do to see if you’re sleep deprived: It should take you between 10 and 20 minutes to drift off into your first stage of sleep. If you fall asleep in five minutes or less, you’re extremely sleep deprived, and if it takes you between five and 10 minutes, you’re moderately sleep deprived.
Dr Alain Sanua is a medical doctor who also practices Integrated and Functional Medicine. He enjoys great success with helping people establish healthy sleep patterns, so if you feel you might be putting your health at risk by not getting enough sleep, make an appointment to chat with him today.