Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
More than 30% of Americans are getting fewer than the recommended 7 hours of sleep daily, and research is mounting that it is not good for our longevity, neither individually nor as a society. There are many negative short and long term effects of sleep deprivation, affecting both the physiological and mental capacities.
Impact of Sleep Deprivation on our Society
Increasing demands of modern society means that people are cutting back on sleep, and we are learning that it comes at a major cost. Sleep deprivation was ruled as a significant factor in the Chernobyl reactor and the Challenger tragedies, which cost lost lives, millions to billions of dollars, and irreparable ecological damage. Sleep deprivation causes major medical errors, also: Approximately one million injuries and fifty to one hundred thousand deaths per year, with newly graduated doctors in residence being most affected.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Repeatedly losing sleep over the course of weeks or months has a more significant effect on our bodies. Loss of sleep negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to perform higher cognitive functions such as memory recall. It’s experienced as general fatigue, lack of motivation, or sometimes nodding off during the day. Your brain waves are noticeably different after a period of sleep deprivation which corresponds with a lower level of alertness. This can be seen after prolonged periods (16 hours or more) of being awake.
Harvard’s Healthy Sleep Department uses three types of studies to help scientists understand link between sleep and disease: sleep deprivation studies, cross-sectional epidemiological studies, and longitudinal epidemiological studies. The first involves depriving participants of sleep and examining short-term physiological effects. The second involves examining questionnaires about participants’ long term sleep habits and comparing them with disease in large populations. The third studies the negative impact of long term sleep habits of people who started healthy and then got sick. From these studies it’s beginning to appear likely that increasing sleep may reduce the risk of developing or lessening the impact of disease.
Increased Risk of Weight Gain, Obesity, Hypertension, and Diabetes
Harvard sleep researchers have also found a correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Habitually sleeping six hours or less is linked to increased overeating, increased body mass index (BMI) and a decrease in physical activity. Cortisol (a stress hormone) also increases during periods of sleep deprivation, as does insulin production following a meal. Increased insulin is associated with weight gain, which is a diabetes risk factor. In some sleep deprivation studies, glucose was processed more slowly when participants sleep was reduced to four hours from eight to twelve, which also increased insulin production. Other studies have shown a strong correlation between sleeping five or fewer hours and having diabetes. And after just a single night of sleep deprivation, blood pressure goes up.
If you’ve ever lost a good night’s sleep, you have probably experienced a greater fluctuation in mood swings. You can imagine that long term sleep loss will have greater ill effects on the mind. Chronic sleep issues are associated with depression, anxiety, and mental distress. Subjects who slept four hours or less per night self-reported feelings of irritability, stress, mental exhaustion, and sadness. All of these self-reported symptoms seemed to dramatically improve with increased sleep.
Impaired Immune Function
Substances used to produce immune response also increase fatigue, so if a person isn’t getting enough sleep, their immune system will be compromised. One theory regarding these substances proposes “ that the immune system evolved ‘sleepiness inducing factors’ because inactivity and sleep provided an advantage: those who slept more when faced with an infection.”
Decreased Life Expectancy
Given the number of negative health impacts of sleep, life expectancy is lower among people who are chronically sleep deprived. Epidemiological studies have shown that people who sleep less than five hours per night or less increased mortality risk from all causes by about 15%.
Alcohol Use and Impaired Sleep
Alcohol use is more prevalent among people who have trouble sleeping. Alcohol acts as a mild sedative and is used by some people who have insomnia, however this effect is temporary; as the alcohol gets processed by the body it begins to stimulate the brain’s arousal areas, actually compromising the quality of a person’s sleep.
Tips for Getting Enough Sleep
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon, evening, and near bedtime. Caffeine promotes wakefulness.
- Make sure your sleeping environment is dark and quiet. You can use white noise machines to dull outside noises or blackout curtains to prevent light from entering the room.
- Allow yourself 30 minutes of winding down time after you get in bed without phones, laptops, or books. To fill the time, instead focus on your breath or do a relaxation exercise.
- Wake up around the same time every day. This will help by adjusting your body's internal clock and promote sleepiness around the time you need to go to bed.
If you are not getting enough sleep, perhaps it’s time to make it more of a priority. Remember, everyone’s sleep needs are unique - maybe you need more than eight hours, maybe you feel fine after sleeping only seven. Only you can determine your own requirements for sleep, but one thing is for sure: you will feel the negative effects if you aren’t getting enough z’s.
If you are not getting enough sleep because of pain, let me help you! Call 510-922-1579 or schedule with us online at www.corewellnesschiro.com.
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