Today, Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Very Real Danger of Insufficient Sleep

The Very Real Danger of Insufficient Sleep

For many people, a busy lifestyle is an excuse for not getting enough sleep. They use caffeine and sugar to get through the day, unaware that their body is in danger. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about one-third of Americans are only sleeping 6.5 hours or less each night. If you are among those who have trouble getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, you may be doing more damage than you realize. Poor sleep dangers are real and they can affect people of all ages and physical conditions.

Heart Problems
Sleep deprivation has a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, which is directly linked to blood pressure levels. The force created by blood as it travels through arteries is measured in order to determine blood pressure. If the pressure is higher than normal for a sustained period of time, it leads to complications in the cardiovascular system. 

High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder than it is used to; hardening the arteries in the process. This is a known precursor to a heart attack or stroke, the two leading causes of death in the country. A restless body is twice as likely to have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Even more startling is that hypertension often goes undiagnosed; especially in adolescents. 

Insulin also plays a key role in heart-related conditions. Without adequate sleep, more insulin is needed to balance your blood sugar levels. As the insulin is created, the pressure goes up, again causing hypertension. Other serious conditions related to poor sleep dangers such as high blood pressure are blindness, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease. 

Chronic Inflammation
During inflammation and infection, molecules called cytokines are released in the immune system. Studies have shown an increase in cytokines for people who get less than 7-8 hours of sleep per night. The chronic inflammation will worsen over time and result in heart disease and failure.

Brain Deficiencies
The brain has the unique ability to shift memory and tasks to different places as needed. It operates like a complex system and will constantly try to adapt in every situation. When it is forced to work on little rest, the brain compensates by shifting and adapting more, shutting down its parts one by one, until exhaustion. The extra work invested by the brain is in vain because the person is not able to function or recognize things with a normal degree of competence.

Coincidentally, the part of the brain most affected by lack of sleep is also the most active part. Its functions include sense of time, attention, updating working memory, verbal fluency, and dealing with situations as they arise. Similar to a computer that needs to restart, a brain needs to recover each night. Experts reveal that the most important part of sleep for brain recovery is the earliest stage. 

Sleep deprivation causes a reduction in metabolism and hormone production. It acts in the same way that stress does in affecting the body and its functions. Stress is well known in speeding up the aging process. By not giving the body enough rest, the same thing happens, paving the way towards age-related diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. 

Recently, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) studied the link between sleeping habits and age by looking at “successful” and “unsuccessful” aging. They define “successful aging” as people who feel and look younger, regardless of their age. Being more active, engaging their brains, and regularly napping or sleeping well were contributing factors to their success. On the other hand, those who did not sleep enough had more difficulty during the day, looked older, and were more prone to health complications.

In addition, older people may experience other problems. These include a prolonged depressed mood, lack of attention, memory loss, daytime sleepiness, and nighttime falls. Part of the problem is that it is naturally more difficult for seniors to fall asleep. They need to practice relaxation activities, keep their rooms quiet, and leave any stresses of the day behind as they rest.

Emotional Problems
Besides the physiological effects of sleep deprivation, it is common to experience emotional problems as well. Poor sleep dangers such as depression, irritability, short attention span, and loss of energy are just the tip of the iceberg for someone who routinely fails to rest enough. They can see personal and professional relationships suffer as their judgment is altered. An inability to deal with stress or make decisions also relate to how much sleep we get. 

Sleep Aids
Using over-the-counter sleep aides might not be the best solution for sleep issues. The body can develop a tolerance to them, requiring more and more medication. They can also be highly addictive and a safety hazard if the effects do not wear off. It is recommended to consult with a doctor before taking any drugs to help you sleep. Be sure to monitor them closely if you do decide to pursue it.

Most of the time, you can improve your sleep patterns in a natural way with relaxation exercises and herbal supplements. Try eliminating caffeine from your nightly activities and limit the amount of television you watch before bed. A healthy diet is another way to ensure that your body takes full advantage of the rest it needs.

Quality and Quantity
The quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity of hours. Awakening repeatedly, tossing and turning, and having trouble falling asleep are all signs of sleep deprivation. Therefore, it is important to understand that the amount of sleep you get is not measured by the hours spent in your bed, but by the length of time you are actually sleeping.

Recognizing the value of sleep will help you fight off illnesses, be more coordinated, stay awake when driving, and have a better outlook on life. If feeling younger and preventing catastrophic diseases appeal to you, be more conscious of your sleeping habits. They might be the answer to some of your problems. So don’t ignore any of the poor sleep dangers and stay healthy with at least 7 to 8 hours every night.

Resources - Be Well Stanford - National Sleep Foundation

References - Buzzle - WebMD - Natural News - Dummies, Dangers of Sleep - Science Daily

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