“I had a great night’s sleep last night!” or “I feel refreshed and energetic!” Those are statements you probably don’t hear very often. Today, sluggish is the new normal. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most Americans suffer from sleep deprivation. And being deprived of sleep may be causing more trouble for you than just feeling sluggish. You can be seriously harming your health.
Why aren’t we sleeping?
There was a time in our society where it was common for people to sleep 8 to 9 hours each day. Studies today show that only about 25% of Americans get more than 8 hours of sleep. One reason is that we live in an era 24/7 society. We have the ability to get anything we want around the clock, from outside the home to inside the home.
Also, we work long hours. If we have children involved in activities, we transport them to and from activities. We try to make time for ourselves, our friends, entertainment, fitness and so on.
And when we seem to not have enough hours, the first thing most people forgo is sleep. Eventually, we will get to bed–just a little later. But even when we get into bed, we aren’t guaranteed to sleep soundly. A National Sleep Foundation report stated that 60% of Americans have sleep problems. Which means that more than half of us struggle to sleep and it is taking a toll on our health.
Dangers of sleep deprivation
Quoting Dr. Anne Calhoun, a neurology professor, University of North Carolina, “The foundations of good health are a good diet, good exercise, and good sleep, but two out of three doesn’t get you there.” Eating healthily and getting plenty of exercises is not enough to make up for the danger that sleep deprivation poses to your health. Adults need around 8 hours of sleep each night. There are some studies that suggest that as little as 7 and one-half hours can be sufficient; however, getting less than that will pose serious consequences such as:
- Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: If you get less than 6 hours of sleep each night and have disturbed sleep, you’re 48% at greater risk of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater risk of developing or dying from a stroke. During a lifetime, lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure, blocked arteries, stroke, kidney disease and dementia.
- Obesity: Also linked to sleep deprivation is obesity. When you don’t get enough sleep, two powerful hormones that control hunger are disrupted resulting in a feeling of being hungrier and have fewer sensations of feeling “full.” Further, without enough sleep, you have the tendency of feeling more stressed. This encourages the production of the hormone cortisol in your body. Cortisol causes you to crave high-carbohydrate foods such as potato chips and brownies and then deposits those carbs as fat around your belly. Pre-diabetes is also a risk for those who don’t get enough sleep because it can cause impaired glucose tolerance.
- Compromised immune system: When you do not get enough sleep, your immune system becomes stressed and compromised. You actually have a decrease in white blood cells, and those that remain are less active resulting in getting sick more often. If your immune system is functioning well, you can ward off many illnesses. But if something happens to compromise your immune response, you will be vulnerable to infections, bacteria, viruses, and even some autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and asthma.
- Impaired exercise performance: If heart disease, obesity, and immune suppression weren’t enough, a lack of sleep can significantly have a negative impact on your fitness efforts. It’s difficult for people to struggle to maintain their normal level of workout intensity when they are sleep deprived. You just don’t have the energy to push through. Furthermore, your muscles repair and rebuild while you sleeping so if you don’t allow your body this recovery time–you will be at a significant disadvantage during your next workout.
Make time for sleep
I write this from experience. I suffer from what is called sleep apnea. I snored incessantly. ANd frequently tired most of the time–feeling sluggish. My remedy! I consulted my physician and after some tests, I was diagnosed. I use a machine called a C-PAP–Continous Positive Airway Pressure. This machine has helped significantly in getting the sleep I deserve. There is truth in this statement, if you don’t make time now for adequate sleep, you will likely be forced in the future to make time for illness. Whatever it takes, be it rearranging your schedule, talking with your physician do it. The payoff will be increased health, energy and productivity! I wish you well.