Sleep and Your Health: The Importance of Getting a Good Night’s Rest

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How many hours of high-quality sleep do you get in a typical sleep? Current guidelines recommend adults get about seven to eight hours of high-quality sleep per night. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, about one in three Americans fall short of these guidelines. While a single night of insufficient or low-quality sleep probably won’t cause any immediate effects, it can take a toll on your physical and mental health over time.


Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Failure to get enough high-quality sleep at night may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. As you may know, type 2 diabetes is a chronic health condition in which your body fails to properly use insulin. Normally, the pancreas produces insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. But people living with type 2 diabetes have a resistance to insulin, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. It’s unknown how sleep disorders cause or contribute to type 2 diabetes, but the evidence is clear: If you don’t get enough high-quality sleep at night, you’ll have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than someone who does get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night.


Increased Weight Gain

You may have trouble losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight if you don’t get enough high-quality sleep at night. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found a direct correlation between sleep duration and weight gain. After following over 68,000 women as part of the Nurses’ Health Study, researchers discovered that participants who got the least amount of sleep were more likely be overweight or obese than their well-rested counterparts.


Daytime Fatigue

Not surprisingly, lack of high-quality sleep can leave you feeling tired and fatigued during the day. Sleep allows your body — as well as your mind — to rest and recoup from the previous day’s activities. The problem is that not everyone gets enough sleep, resulting in daytime fatigue. When you roll out of bed after a night of poor sleep, you may feel groggy and drowsiness. Not only is this is a nuisance; it can affect your productivity. When you go to work, you may perform your job more slowly and less accurate, which can have devastating consequences in certain industries like transportation, construction or manufacturing. Regardless of where you work, though, you’ll be more productive if you get a solid seven to eight hours of high-quality sleep at night.



Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Perhaps the most disturbing side effect of insufficient sleep is a higher risk of heart disease. As explained by the National Sleep Foundation, men and women who get insufficient sleep at night are more likely to develop heart disease than their counterparts, even when accounting for age, weight and other health factors that potentially affect heart health. It’s unknown how lack of sleep contributes to heart disease, but medical experts believe there is in fact a link between the two. One possible belief is that lack of high-quality sleep disturbs the delicate balance of chemicals in the body, resulting in high blood pressure and elevated heart rate.

It’s important to note that getting too much sleep at night may also increase your risk of heart disease. Just like too little sleep is bad for your heart, so is too much sleep. Research has shown that adults who get nine or more hours of sleep at night have a higher risk of heart disease than adults who get seven to eight hours of sleep at night. Therefore, you should avoid sleeping in during the mornings. Instead, follow a schedule that allows for somewhere between seven and hours of high-quality sleep per night.


Weakened Immune System

You may notice that you get sick more frequently after experiencing prolonged periods of insufficient sleep. Sleep allows your body to release infection-fighting chemicals known as cytokines. When you’re suffering from an infection, such as the common cold, your immune system will use these cytokines to attack and neutralize it. If you get less than seven hours of high-quality sleep, however, your body won’t have the opportunity to produce cytokines, resulting in a weakened immune system that may not be able to ward off infections. For a strong immune system, you must get adequate high-quality sleep each night.


Increased Stress and Anxiety

Lack of sleep affects more than just your physical health; it affects your mental health as well. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American (ADAA), there’s a direct connection between anxiety and sleep disorders. People who suffer from a sleep disorder have a higher risk of developing anxiety, and people who suffer from anxiety have a higher risk of developing a sleep disorder. The ADAA even says that people suffering from chronic insomnia have the highest risk of developing anxiety.


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