We all know how it feels to have a night of tossing and turning due to sleep issues like night sweats and hot flashes. Sleep deprivation can cause huge problems for your mind, body, and your general health in ways that might surprise you.
Research shows that consistent lack of sleep is linked to colds and flu, diabetes, heart disease, mental health, and even obesity. So it’s natural to ask: Does getting enough sleep protect me from sickness? The definitive answer is that it definitely helps. Sleep is a quiescent period where the cells are doing a lot of repairing. Your hormones act differently when you’re asleep, and your immune system as well. If your immune system is out of whack, you can’t fight off illness -- and I would say that you can’t repair your cells very well, either. Here are five key health problems that research shows are worsened by lack of sleep and may be improved by getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Sleep and the onset of Colds and Flu
When you’re sleep deprived, you often feel “worn down-- and that’s a clue that your body is vulnerable to infection. Not getting enough sleep makes you more vulnerable to picking up illnesses and not being able to fight them off. What’s going on is your immune system is degraded. The less sleep you get, the weaker your immune system is, leaving it less able to fight off colds, flu, and other infections. Studies have even found that being sleep deprived can affect our response to vaccines. Since your immune response is suppressed, the body is slower in response to the vaccine to build up sufficient antibodies to fight off the disease.
Sleep and Heart Disease
Former President Bill Clinton recently confessed that he thinks lack of sleep had a lot to do with his recent hospitalization to unblock a clogged artery. "I didn't sleep much for a month, that probably accelerated what was already going on," Clinton said.
He’s probably right. When you don’t get enough sleep, you have an inflammatory response in your cardiovascular system -- in the blood vessels and arteries -- and that’s not a good thing! We see the same thing in hypertension. If that sleep deprivation continues long term, chronic inflammation has been linked to things like heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
Sleep and Diabetes
The key underlying problem in type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, where the body does not make proper use of this sugar-processing hormone. Guess what? When you’re sleep deprived, your body almost immediately develops conditions that resemble the insulin resistance of diabetes. In one study of young, healthy adult males, they decreased their sleep time to about four hours per night for six nights. At the end of those six nights, every one of those healthy young men was showing impaired glucose tolerance, a precursor to developing diabetes. Another study found that people in their late 20s and early 30s who slept less than 6.5 hours per night had the insulin sensitivity of someone more than 60 years old.