Sleep and Critical Illness

Article published on 2nd July 2008

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Over the next two articles we will be looking at how sleeping patterns can affect your health, regardless of how otherwise healthy our lifestyles are. So if you want to benefit from that no-claims bonus on your health insurance or critical illness insurance you would do well to read on...

Sleeping too much or too little on a regular basis can aggravate and even cause all sorts of conditions, ranging from mood and memory problems, to coronary disease, and even obesity. Research by scientists from the Harvard Medical School has shown that interrupted sleep for as little as 4 nights in a row is enough to alter the insulin in the blood to "pre-diabetic" levels.

The correct amount of sleep for individual people his quite variable, with some of us needing only 6 hours out of every 24 while others might need 9 hours. The average tends to be between 7 and 8 hours, but as a rule of thumb you should be waking up feeling refreshed and well rested, without nodding off during the day.

The problem is that many of our modern day desk jobs have detrimental effects upon our sleeping patterns and therefore our health. Sitting in front of a computer all day can sap our energy levels and need to lethargy and also disrupted sleep. Something similar can be said for alcohol over-consumption, an issue that is particularly prevalent within the UK.

I know it seems a bit much to suggest that as well as watching our diet and exercise levels we should also make sure we get plenty of the right sort of sleep, but then this isn't a health article designed to guilt anyone into eating properly or whatever. This is an insurance article (believe it or not), and insurance risk is not about preaching risk as a sort of moral crusade, it's about percentiles and averages and financial risk.

If research shows that poor sleep can lead to critical illnesses (as an example), then it is worth taking the hint and doing something about your own sleeping habits if you feel that they are affecting your health. It's bad enough missing out on work because of accident and injury, let alone from entirely preventable matters like sleeping habits...

Next time we will look at some of the specific symptoms Harvard Medical School have identified as walking hand in hand with sleep problems.

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