Burning the candle at both ends may make you feel efficient, but without a full night’s rest, you may be damaging your body more than you realize. Your immune system recharges while you sleep. People who get a full night of sleep are less likely to suffer a number of illnesses.
The average adult needs 7 to 8 hours of comfortable, undisrupted sleep each night. However, current statistics say that the average adult actually sleeps only about 6.5 hours a night. This trend may be the result of increased work hours, stress, and constant distractions via technology.
These are just some of the health risks associated with lack of sleep:
· Cold and flu. When your body gets worn down from lack of sleep, you are much more likely to catch a cold, flu, or other infection. Start protecting yourself from these ailments by sleeping your full 7 hours, especially during flu season.
· Heart disease. Lack of sleep causes inflammation in your cardiovascular system, which leads to blockages in your blood vessels and arteries. This can result in heart attack or stroke.
· Diabetes. When you are deprived of sleep, your body begins to resist insulin and create the condition that leads to diabetes. Insulin sensitivity increases as lack of sleep decreases; changing your sleep habits can reverse this problem.
· Increased weight. Lack of sleep has been linked to childhood obesity. Adults are affected as well. The hormone leptin reduces hunger, but less is produced when you don’t get enough sleep. You can easily reduce your risk for obesity by starting a healthy sleep schedule and sticking to it.
· Performance and mood. Sleep deprivation can lead to the same unsafe behaviors as being intoxicated. Driving without a full night’s sleep reduces brain function, leading to auto accidents. Your job and daily life will suffer as well. Those who were tested for memory or hand-eye coordination after minimal sleep scored poorly, yet didn’t realize how poorly they had done. Your judgment and sense of self become impaired without enough sleep. Your mood and overall appearance will be improved after a good night’s sleep.
Help your body get more rest. Regular exercise and healthy diet are essential to regulating sleep. Spending time outdoors allows your body to respond to the natural pattern of sunlight and nighttime. Alcohol and some medications will reduce the quality of sleep, so pay attention to those habits. Listen to relaxing music, take a bath, or read a book for a while to establish a calming routine right before bed.
If you have a condition that prevents you from sleeping well, the Sleep Disorders department at St. Petersburg Hospital can help. Our staff can assess your situation and help determine the best course of treatment for you. Visit us online or call Consult-A-Nurse® at 1-888-741-5122 for a physician referral.