Lack of Sleep May Raise Certain Health Risks

Courtesy of Kelsey (Flickr CC0)

The body needs sleep. It’s not just good for mental health, but also good for physical health. Scientists have found that not getting enough quality slumber can lead to problems with the immune system and raise risks for infectious diseases, heart disease, and stroke. The effect of a lack of sleep on the body’s ability to fight off infections and recover from injuries both minor ones like cuts and scrapes and major ones like broken bones.

People who don’t get enough rest, in general, have a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. A 2015 study in The International Journal of Obesity found that people who slept less than six hours per night were 1.86 times more likely to be overweight or obese than those who got seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

The immune system also suffers when people don’t get enough shut-eye. A 2014 study published by researchers at the University of California San Diego concluded that people who didn’t get enough sleep for five consecutive nights had an increased risk for viral infection compared with people who slept normally during the same period. This effect was especially true among young men and women with compromised immune systems from conditions like lupus or other chronic illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Courtesy of Toshiyuki IMAI (Flickr CC0)

The body’s immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend against foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria. When people are well-rested, their immune systems can beat back these invaders. But when someone is slumber deprived, levels of stress hormones rise in the body — and those hormones can have a negative effect on the immune system.

After six hours of rest each night, the body starts to show negative effects. Sleep deprivation can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also affect how someone feels and how they think.

Sleep deprivation is linked to a range of other health issues like obesity and immune system problems.

Sleep deprivation can increase stress hormone levels, which leads to feeling more stressed and tired. In turn, this may cause people to have less energy and desire for sleep.

Sleep is an important part of staying healthy.

Not getting enough quality sleep can affect the body’s ability to fight off infections and recover from injuries. It can also increase the risk of chronic health problems such as obesity and hypertension (high blood pressure).

The most obvious effect of sleep loss is fatigue, but it can also lead to other health problems. Lack of sleep also can affect the functioning of blood vessels and increase levels of a stress hormone called cortisol, which raises blood pressure.

Cortisol is a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure. It’s normally produced in response to physical or psychological stressors and usually returns to normal levels after the body has adjusted to the situation (i.e., people have dealt with whatever was stressing them out). But high levels of cortisol over time can cause high blood pressure in people who don’t get enough sleep or have poor quality sleep — and unfortunately, getting less than seven hours per night or having poor quality rest increases a person’s risk for developing hypertension by up to 50%.

Feeling tired? Don’t feel alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2018 Sleep Health Survey, more than a third of Americans report they don’t get enough slumber.

How much slumber is needed? The body needs sleep to repair itself and restore mental and physical energy. Adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night for optimal health; children younger than age 5 need even more — about 11-14 hours per day. Some people need even more than that: The average adult with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may require nine hours or more of nightly rest.

So, get some rest! It’s good for the body and mind. And if it’s difficult to do, ask a friend or family member to help out.

Written by Sheena Robertson


Neuroscience: A Consistent Lack of Sleep Negatively Impacts Immune Stem Cells, Increasing Risk of Inflammatory Disorders and Heart Disease
National Institutes of Health: NIH-funded study shows sound sleep supports immune function
Fox News: Chronic lack of sleep may negatively affect our immune cells, raising certain health risks: New study

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Kelsey‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Toshiyuki IMAI‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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