Why is lack of sleep a problem?
Studies have found that adults should sleep at least 7 hours a night.
Regularly sleeping for less than 7 hours can have a negative impact on your health. But why, exactly, is a lack of sleep a problem?
Lack of sleep affects heart health
A study by the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology at the University of Bonn found that a lack of sleep can lead to “a significant increase in cardiac contractility, blood pressure and heart rate”.
Signs of reduced heart health are also more commonly found in patients with sleep apnoea, which reduces sleep quality and causes sufferers to wake frequently.
Unsurprisingly, reduced heart health and increased blood pressure are a problem for the human body. In fact, they can reduce life span.
Lack of sleep affects brain function
During REM sleep, which typically begins when we’re 90 minutes into our sleep cycle and happens frequently throughout the night, our brain begins to filter information. It clears out anything that’s not important or necessary, strengthening our memory and brain function.
If you don’t get enough important REM sleep, you may find that you suffer effects such as problems with your memory, delays in processing and confused thought.
Lack of sleep affects our immune system and our hormones
Not getting enough sleep can cause hormone imbalances that will contribute to everything from weight gain to growth. Cell repair will begin to be affected, and have a knock-on effect on your immune system.
Long-term, the impact of a lack of sleep could lead to decreased insulin sensitivity, which in turn may lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Lack of sleep affects mental health
Problems with brain function, caused by lack of sleep, can have an influence on your mental health.
Lack of sleep causes imbalances in chemicals within the brain such as dopamine, serotonin and cortisol, all of which have a part to play in emotional regulation.
Not getting enough sleep may leave you prone to mood swings, depression and a lack of self-control.
Is it enough to get 8 hours of sleep?
Unfortunately, you can’t assume that you’re getting enough sleep just because you’re at rest for eight hours.
The quality of your sleep is important. If you’re restless, waking frequently or experiencing limited REM sleep, you’ll need to stay in bed for longer to keep your health in check.
Many things can have an impact on your sleep quality, from what you eat to the exercise that you do day-to-day. Your bedroom environment also has an impact, and should be a comfortable and restful environment at an appropriate temperature.
Try to avoid using phones and computers within an hour of bedtime. Blue light from these devices can make it harder for your brain to switch off.
Going to bed in a positive state of mind can improve the quality of your sleep. Leave your worries aside by writing a to-do list, and making a note of anything that might have upset you during the day, before you climb into bed.
If you’re an employer, educating your team on the benefits of better sleep and how to achieve it could have a direct impact on their productivity, health and ultimately your bottom line.
Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your healthcare provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.