What health issues can arise from not getting enough sleep?

If you’ve ever had a sleepless night or a disturbed sleep, you know the next day is tough, and sometimes feels never-ending.

Imagine if that was the case every night. For many of us, that’s the reality. But feeling tired and cranky is one thing, what about the impact on our health in other ways.

A recently published report commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia1 showed that 1 in 10 of us have a sleep disorder that can have a serious effect on our health, well- being, safety, and productivity.1

According to a Harvard Medical School report, “sleeping fewer than about eight hours per night on a regular basis seems to increase the risk of developing a number of medical conditions. And that reducing sleep by just two or three hours per night can have dramatic health consequences.”2

The Sleep Health Foundation of Australia suggests that sleep disturbance is a significant risk factor for the development of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety3. While you might expect a lack of sleep to impact on your mood, you may not appreciate the impact on your physical health.

Harvard Medical School has reviewed studies and identified the following serious health issues:2

  • Obesity. People who regularly sleep less than 6 hours per night are much more likely to carry excess weight, in contrast to those who achieve 8 hours who carry less weight.2 Obesity is a risk factor in its own right for a number of other conditions including cardiovascular and osteoarthritis4
  • Diabetes. An average of less than five hours sleep per night greatly increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, improving sleep can help provide better blood sugar control and the effects of Type 2 diabetes2
  • Cardiovascular disease. Even a small reduction in quality sleep can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease2
  • Immunity. There is a well-established connection between our immune system and sleep and recent studies suggest a lack of sleep may decrease our ability to fight infections, including the common cold. In fact, people who averaged less than seven hours of sleep are about three times more likely to develop cold symptoms than those who sleep eight hours or more2

How to sleep better

Better sleep hygiene is a great starting point.

Good sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the habits that will help you sleep well, or at least help increase the chances of you getting a good night’s rest.

  • Establish a sleep routine
    Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Your body and mind will soon get used to the habit
  • A screen-free zone
    Devices, TVs and laptops have no place in the bedroom. The blue light emitted by electronics devices stimulates your brain, so try and avoid

  • Relax before you rest
    Try and get into the habit of doing something relaxing before heading to bed. Many people find that a warm shower or bath helps. Try not to think about problems you need to solve. Maybe even learn how to meditate
  • Avoid caffeine or alcoholic drinks before bed
  • Alcohol can make you drowsy, but it has been shown to disrupt your natural sleep cycle.
  • Make your bedroom comfortable and inviting to sleep
    Block out light – light is one of the biggest factors to limit sleep: it inhibits melatonin, the hormone to help you fall and stay asleep. If you can’t block light, consider a light blocking mask, such as the Dreamlight masks (click to learn more). They’re comfortable and effective.

Start to implement these steps and sleep your way to better health!

Sources:

1. https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/images/shf-annual-report-2021.pdf

2. https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health

3. https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/mental-health-and-sleep-2.html

4. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html

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