The Hidden Costs of Not Enough Sleep

By on December 30, 2019

by Tami Mungenast, CPT CNWC CES

As 2020 rolls out many start the New Year with a renewed spirit and motivation to make some changes to their lifestyle to improve their health. There is one simple lifestyle change that is often overlooked, free of charge and can significantly improve your mind and body –  it’s that five letter word – Sleep!

Sleep is often the first thing to get cut when we are stressed and pressed for time. Often we look at a good night’s sleep as a luxury item, not a critical component of health. There can be long term health ramifications to not getting enough sleep. At first the cost of poor sleep habits go unnoticed, but research and science show that they can lead to declined health that includes obesity, heart disease and poor immune system function. Health experts are now making the connections between lack of sufficient sleep long term to increased risks to chronic illnesses. Studies are showing that getting regular high quality sleep is equally as important as good nutrition and exercise for overall health and wellness.

Some effects of poor sleep habits include:

•Weight Gain– Those sleeping less than six hours per night are regularly shown to have a higher risk for excess body fat. Those who slept eight hours had the lowest body fat percentage in the study.  

•Type 2 Diabetes– Studies also indicated that those having less than five hours sleep on average have a greater increase of developing type 2 diabetes. The good news is that the same studies have also found that improved sleep can positively influence blood sugar control and reduce the effects of type 2 diabetes. 

•Cardiovascular Risks– Heart disease was also increased in studies of modestly reduced sleep (six to seven hours per night). There is also growing evidence of a connection between sleep loss caused by obstructive sleep apnea and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, and irregular heart beat. 

•Immune System Health– The immune system is our body’s weapon to fight off viruses like the common cold and kill cancer cells as well as other important health functions that are also impacted by our sleep quality and quantity.  Immune system and sleep interactions are well documented. Sleep deprivation is shown to increase inflammation and our ability to fight infection leading to higher risk of coming down with viruses. Studies show that those with less than seven hours sleep on average are three times more likely to come down with a cold than those who receive eight hours sleep.

Adults should aim for a good quality of 7-8 hours sleep. Sleep helps maintain vital health functions and enhance our body’s ability to recover from the wear and tear of every day life. While sleeping well is no guarantee of good health, it does help to maintain many vital functions. One of the most important of these functions may be to provide cells and tissues with the opportunity to recover from the wear and tear of daily life. Major restorative functions in the body such as tissue repair, muscle growth, and protein synthesis occur almost exclusively during sleep. Not only will more sleep help us feel better but also can help increase our ability to live healthier. If you are having difficulty with sleep or feel tired after waking from sleep contact your physician.