Summer 2014 Edition
Too Little Sleep Can Damage Your Physical and Mental Health
If you think cutting back on your sleep (less than the nightly 7-8 hours of sleep recommended for adults) won't harm your health, think again. Growing scientific evidence suggests that too little sleep or erratic sleep may harm your health, mood and productivity at work.
Sleep and your appetite - A study from the University of Chicago found that lack of sleep makes you want to eat more. The reason? Sleep loss appears to trigger changes in hormones that regulate appetite and stimulate hunger for high-calorie foods like cookies and chips. According to another study, people who get less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night are up to 73% more likely to be obese.
Sleep and your physical health - According to the Harvard-run Nurses' Study, failing to get enough sleep heightens the risk for a variety of major illnesses, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. A report from the study summarizes that a sleep deficit may put the body into a state of high alert, increasing the production of stress hormones and driving up blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Additionally, people who are sleep-deprived have elevated levels of substances in the blood that indicate a heightened state of inflammation in the body, which is now also recognized as a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
Sleep and your mental health - It is well-known that sleep problems can be a key sign of depression. However, the latest medical research now reports that the reverse is also true - sleep disorder can actually trigger depression or other mood disorders. The explanation? Sleep, mood and mental/emotional behaviors all share a complex mix of chemistry in the brain. Disordered sleep appears to set off an array of forces in the brain and nervous system that can result in a depressed mood, major depressive episode or other mood disorder.
Sleep and your productivity - According to a Better Sleep Council survey, sleep-deprived workers reported the following as work-related consequences from lack of sleep:
- 31 percent reported a decline in quality of work
- 31 percent reported impaired thinking or judgment at work
- 30 percent reported trouble retaining information
The survey summarized that "sleep deprivation impacts your alertness, your productivity and your ability to socially interact with co-workers."
What to do
If you have difficulty with your sleep for any reason, take action. Most sleep difficulties are either caused or reinforced by lifestyle habits or behaviors that are antagonistic toward good, restful sleep habits. There are many resources at your local book store, library or online (National Sleep Foundation website: www.sleepfoundation.org) that are filled with information and tips about how to get adequate sleep.