Poor sleep can increase your risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, obesity and stress and it reduces your longevity.
All animals require sleep. It is an indispensable part of life, as crucial as eating and drinking. Humans spend about a third of their life sleeping.
But sleep is not a simple state of rest; during sleep you produce hormones such as melatonin which is a huge antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemical; during sleep you go through cyclical phases of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and non-REM which are precisely regulated by your central nervous system. This is, of course linked to your brain. Your bacteria in your microbiome have circadian rhythms and through the vagus nerve, their chemicals (including melatonin) aid in homeostasis as you regenerate. Your blood pressure drops calming your cardiovascular system. Sleep regulates many crucial physiological and metabolic functions such as inflammation.
Sleep is restorative; sleep is healing. Poor sleep is damaging to your health. The US Diabetes Association estimates that one third of all Americans do not get enough sleep.
How much is enough? 7 or more hours. Here we look at some of
The major health issues of poor sleep:
1. You get dumbed-down. People who have poor sleep don’t think straight, become less productive and make poorer decisions. They get lazier – so don’t worry as much about what they eat, what they drink and they forsake the trip to the gym. They also become more, umm, …. forgetful.
2. You are more at risk of an accident. For example, road traffic data in the USA shows 100,000 accidents and 1550 crash related deaths due to tiredness last year. Accidents in the work place are more common too.
3. You are more at risk of cancer. Disturbed sleep patterns and poor sleep lower melatonin in the body. Melatonin is linked to oestrogen and growth hormone regulation in the body. People with poor melatonin production (long haul air hostesses, night shift workers) have a greater risk of prostate cancer in men, and a greater risk of breast cancer in women.
4. You are more at risk of other chronic illnesses, like:
a. Dementia – Sleep difficulties are linked to the development and progression of dementia, according to research from Harvard (1). And high blood pressure at night is linked to dementia.
b. Stroke – sleep disturbances are a risk factor for stroke according to researchers from S. Korea (2).
c. Cardiovascular disease – sleep duration is significantly associated with cardiovascular disease risk and heart attack (3).
d. Organ damage – Canadian researchers have shown that people who have poor sleep exhibit less night time ‘dips’ in blood pressure and more organ damage (4).
e. High blood pressure – people with high blood pressure may find it harder to get to sleep; but some people wake up with high blood pressure – this nocturnal ‘hypertension’ is especially concerning and indicates a higher risk of heart attack or stroke according to Professor Kazuomi Kario who conducted a 10-year study. Causes can range from taking medications to alcohol consumption or higher cholesterol levels (5).
f. Diabetes – Sleep disturbances increase insulin resistance, increase glucose intolerance, decrease leptin and increase Type-2 diabetes risk (6).
g. Stress and Weight gain – Decreased sleep results in greater cortisol (stress) levels (especially before bed), and increased hunger, appetite and obesity levels (7).
h) Depression – People with insomnia have a 10-fold higher risk of depression; and 75% people with depression can’t get to sleep. Chicken and egg (Johns Hopkins).
5. Your sex drive wanes, especially if you are male. There are a number of studies on sleep deprivation and sex drive; all show those males who were only allowed 5 hours a night saw their testosterone levels fall by 10-15 per cent and energy levels progressively decline but heightened stress levels.
6. Your longevity declines. Yes, your risk of death from any cause, rises. Whatever your age (1).
- Sleep difficulties, incident dementia; Rebecca Robbins et al; https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jsr.13395
- Sleep disturbances as a risk factor for stroke; Dai Lim Too et al; J stroke, 2018, Jan; 20(1), 12-32 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5836576/
- Sleep quality, sleep duration and risk of Coronary Heart Disease; Xiang Qian Lao et al, Hong Kong; J Clin Sleep Med, 2018, Jan 15, 14(1) – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5734879/
- Night-time blood pressure patterns and target organ damage; Faye S. Routledge et al; Can J Cardiol, 2007, Feb 23(2), 132-8 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17311119/
- 24 hour Blood Pressure Manual – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/book/10.1002/9781119087281
- Sleep Duration and Diabetes risk; Michael A. Grandner et al; Curr Diab Rep; 2017, Nov 1 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5070477/
- Sleep and Obesity; Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic care, 2011, Beccuti, Guglielmo et al; https://journals.lww.com/co-clinicalnutrition/Abstract/2011/07000/Sleep_and_obesity.16.aspx