The word is out: not getting enough sleep can result in serious consequences for our physical and mental health. Most people require 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night, the New York Times reported recently, and when we cut that sleep short, we can cheat ourselves not only of rest but of better health.
- Many bodily systems are negatively affected by inadequate sleep, including the heart, lungs and kidneys; appetite, metabolism and weight control; immune function and disease resistance; sensitivity to pain; reaction time; mood; and brain function.
- Poor sleep is also a risk factor for depression and substance abuse, especially among people with post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Several studies have linked insufficient sleep to weight gain.
- The body’s ability to process glucose is also adversely affected, which may ultimately result in Type 2 diabetes.
- The risk of cancer may also be elevated in people who fail to get enough sleep.
- Children can also experience hormonal disruptions from inadequate sleep.
- Short sleepers may also be more susceptible to everyday infections like colds and flu because during sleep, the body produces cytokines, cellular hormones that help fight infections.
An internet search will turn up plenty of tips and tricks to help get to sleep and sleep well, but taking these simple steps may be a good place to start:
- Avoid naps and caffeine late in the day
- Stay off of your computer immediately before bed
- While in bed, reduce distractions from light or noise
- To fall asleep, try a simple breathing exercise to relax, like inhaling for 4 seconds, holding for 2, then exhaling for 4