Not getting enought sleep? It could be hurting you more than you think. Scientists are discovering that a lack of sleep contributes to the onset of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
Sleep is essential for healthy living; and it is easy to see that sleep deprivation isn't good for the body. Fatigue is not a natural state, and it's your body's signal that it needs to recuperate. The side effects of fatigue, like an inability to concentrate, also make people prone to road and workplace accidents. A study done in Australia and New Zealand found that people who are tired perform simple tasks with the same proficiency as people who have a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. In other words, a tired person could be just as dangerous behind the wheel as a drunk person.
What has surprised many people is that a lack of sleep can also induce subtle metabolic changes that lead to obseity and diseases like type-2 diabetes. A study done at College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York found that many people who slept less than 7 hours a night became obese. Another study done at the Boston University School of Medicine also found that many people who slept less than 6 hours a night had a higher chance of getting diabetes mellitus. While the studies are not conclusive (for example, maybe the genes causing obesity and diabetes make people sleep less each night, as opposed to less sleep causing obesity and diabetes), it does seem that getting 7 hours of sleep a night can't hurt you. But getting less than 7 hours of sleep might.
What is interesting is that the Boston University study also found that many people who slept more than 9 hours a night also had a higher chance of getting diabetes mellitus. Another study done in the UK also found that people sleeping more than 8 hours each night had a higher chance of dying from different kinds of medical diseases (it also found that people sleeping less than 7 hours a night also had a higher chance of dying from disease). It is becoming clear that sleeping too much is also hazardous to your health.
The best way to maintain a regular 7 or 8 hour sleep cycle is to go to bed at the same every night. Set your alarm clock for the same time each morning, even on weekends. Invest in a good bed, and make sure you get your full quota of uninterrupted sleep.
Article Copyright © 2008: Wei L. Wang
(Image credit: Bertil Videt)