Sleep is much more than a break between your day-to-day life—it’s a way for your body to reset, regulate hormones, and for your mind to relax. That’s why poor sleeping habits can lead to a variety of health consequences, including an increased risk of death from all causes.
James Murray, DO, a physician specializing in sleep medicine, discusses the ways in which sleep impacts our health, sleep recommendations, and how you can improve your sleeping habits.
When you’re asleep, your body releases a variety of hormones that work in balance with each other to help regulate your health. Many of these hormones impact appetite, energy metabolism, and glucose processing—all three functions that impact your weight.
One study revealed that those who habitually sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to have a higher BMI than those who sleep for eight hours each night.
“Getting too little sleep can lead to weight gain through several mechanisms. Additionally, people that stay up late are more likely to have poor or irregular eating habits,” said Dr. Murray.
Several studies have shown that adults who tend to get five hours or less of sleep nightly have a significantly increased risk of having or developing diabetes.
Why? Because one of the important hormones that is regulated during sleep is insulin. Irregular, poor sleep is associated with an increase in insulin following meals—meaning your body produces too much after you eat, causing a higher risk of diabetes.
When you’re asleep, your blood pressure decreases. If you consistently miss out on a good night’s sleep, your blood pressure stays higher for longer periods of time, leading to a greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
Research has found that a lack of sleep can lead to atherosclerosis—a condition in which plaque forms inside the arteries—which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Another study revealed that those who sleep less than six hours a night have a 20 percent higher risk of heart attack.
“It’s no secret that healthy sleep is good for your heart,” said. Dr. Murray. “Not only directly, but sleep also helps your body recover from a variety of stresses, which can also lead to a healthier heart.”
Poor sleeping habits and insomnia are linked with depression. When you don’t get good sleep, you’re more likely to experience fatigue, mood changes, and a decrease in overall function.
One study revealed that those who sleep less than 5 hours a night showed declining levels of optimism, sociability.
“Depression can also cause poor sleeping habits, such as oversleeping or insomnia. If you’re experiencing feelings of depression as well as changes to your sleep patterns, talk to your doctor to help figure out how to make improvements.”
A consistent lack of sleep can lead to a greater risk of dementia, especially for older adults. In a recent study, adults over 50 who routinely took 30 minutes or more to fall asleep demonstrated a 45% increased risk of dementia.
“A recent Harvard study revealed that those who experience a chronic lack of sleep, so less than seven hours a night, are at a considerably higher risk for all causes of mortality,” said Dr. Murray.
In the same study, however, too much sleep was also associated with a greater risk of mortality from any cause.
Adults who sleep too long each night, usually nine hours or more, have a greater risk of mortality from all causes. Not only that, but sleeping too much or napping for too long can lead to imbalances in hormones, mood disorders like depression, and increased fatigue.
“It’s best to regulate your sleep schedule as well as you can. Consistently getting the recommended hours of sleep, avoiding long naps throughout the day, and going to bed at the same time every night are all ways that you can improve your health.”
Although exact recommendations vary from person to person, the general sleep recommendations are:
Newborns (1 – 2 months): 10.5 to 18 hours
Infants (3 – 11 months): 10 to 14 hours
Toddlers (1 – 3 years): 12 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3 – 5 years): 11 to 13 hours
School-aged children (5 – 12 years): 10 to 11 hours
Adolescents (12 – 18 years): 8.5 to 9.5 hours
Adults (18+): 7.5 to 8.5 hours
Dr. Murray recommends keeping your sleep schedule consistent. “Regulating your sleep and wake schedule is extremely important to getting good, solid, efficient sleep.”
Other ways to help improve quality and length of sleep include:
Developing nightly habits such as meditation, breathing routines, yoga, stretching, or listening to sleep podcasts may help you fall asleep faster.
“If you have tried all recommendations to help you fall asleep and you’re still struggling to get a good night’s rest, call your doctor. There are a variety of interventions that can be helpful, often under the guidance of your physician or an Insomnia specialist.”
At Rochester Regional Sleep Disorder Centers, we can help you work towards a restful sleep pattern and healthier life. We treat adolescents, adults and older adults and offer two convenient locations for residents of Monroe and Genesee Counties.Learn More
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