Sneha Sadhwani , [email protected]

2017-01-19 10:16:57

We need food, water, sleep and oxygen to survive. But sleep is one such factor that is mostly overlooked. People these days are so busy that they fail to realize that like healthy diet and regular exercise, sleep is equally important for an overall healthy lifestyle. It is very well known that getting a good night's sleep is important yet too few of us actually make it a priority. Here are a few factors that interfere with our natural sleep-wake cycle, also known as 'circadian rhythm'.

  1.  The first factor to top the list is 'use of electronic devices such as mobile phones'. Today internet is completely loaded with knowledge and entertainment. People are so attracted and attached to their mobile phones and television that they are ready to give up on their sleep. In other words use of 'smartphones during bedtime is actually a bad time and it doesn't really make you smart'.
  2. Intake of energy drinks and caffeine: Tea, coffee, certain soft drinks and energy drinks are loaded with caffeine. The use of caffeine to increase alertness in adolescents and adults is increasing day by day. But such a practice interferes with sleep cycle and has a negative impact on sleep duration. Intake of caffeine before going to bed may lead to sleep deprivation and it can even shorten your sleep time. Caffeine stays in your system for 6 hours so make sure you do not consume any caffeinated drinks at least 6 hours prior going to bed.

How sleeping less can affect your health?

Health benefits of adequate sleep is way beyond banishing your dark circles and improving your mood. For overall good health go ahead and snooze. Here are some negative effects of inadequate sleep on your health-

Weight gain- Less hours of sleep and poor quality of sleep is associated with an increase in the appetite. Inadequate sleep also leads to changes in gut hormones, for example- when you sleep less the level of hormone 'gherlin' increases and 'leptin' decreases. Ghrelin is a hormone which tells your brain to eat more and leptin tells your brain to stop eating. If the level of ghrelin increases it means that you will feel hungry again and again and end up eating more. In other words high ghrelin levels increase your appetite. Higher intake of calories finally leads to weight gain.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus- Research has found that short term sleep restriction results in impaired glucose tolerance. Both sleeping for long or short hours are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Short sleep duration is associated with weight gain and increased BMI (body mass index). Weight gain is further associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Curtailment of sleep increases the release of stress hormone (cortisol). Cortisol works against insulin and thus it increases glucose level in blood.

High cholesterol levels- Short sleep duration plays an important role in increasing the cholesterol levels. Sleeping for less number of hours increases the level of 'bad' LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol and reduces the level of 'good' HDL cholesterol. Individuals who sleep less have more craving for fatty foods that contain saturated fat and trans fat (unhealthy fat). Higher intake of foods containing these unhealthy fat raises the level of bad cholesterol in the blood. Sleep restriction is also linked to increased appetite. An increase in appetite could further lead to weight gain which in turn increases cholesterol levels. Getting less sleep at night is associated with fatigue during daytime and this is further related to reduced physical activity. Lesser sleep duration increases the release of stress hormones. These stress hormones raise bad LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Therefore, good quality sleep serves as a treatment or preventive measure for high cholesterol.

Common cold: Individuals who sleep for a short duration are more prone to common cold and other such infections. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night is associated with high risk of common cold whereas sleep duration above 8 hours is linked to better health and resistance to common cold and infections.

Heart disease: Inadequate sleep is associated with higher risk of heart disease. Studies have observed sleep duration of less than 5 hours per night was associated with a significant risk of high blood pressure. Furthermore, as mentioned before inadequate sleep is also linked to risk of diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol levels. Individuals with hypertension, diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol levels are at a higher risk of developing heart disease as compared to healthy individuals. A research found that individuals who sleep for 5 or less than 5 hours per night had 2.3 times greater risk of heart disease as compared to those who sleep for 6-8 hours per night. Getting less hours of sleep is also associated with increased heart rate, salt retention and constriction of blood vessels.

Immunity: Studies indicate that sleep plays an important role in the formation of immunological memory. Less or inadequate sleep interferes with this formation and such individuals end up having a poor immunity and become more prone to infections. Curtailment of sleep for a prolonged period of time increases inflammation in the body and reduces the production of markers that protect against infections. Inadequate sleep and accompanying stress can produce immunodeficiency which can further have negative impact on the overall health.

Verdict: Sleep deficiency is linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, weight gain, altered lipid profile, blood pressure, heart diseases and infections. 7-8 hours of sleep is key to healthy life. Less sleep doesn't just have an impact on behavior but it also affects overall health and each organ system. Just remember- 'less sleep will make you weak'.