How Sleep Can Dictate Health

Article published on 2nd July 2008

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Research by the Harvard Medical School has revealed the main areas that sleep can affect our health and even cause or exacerbate critical illnesses:

Memory and Learning - sleep is vital for the brains ability to commit new information to memory. People are more creative after having a restful night's sleep, but more forgetful when tired and sleepy.

Safety - it seems largely impossible for humans to adapt to chronic sleep loss. If we run up a sleep 'debt' we tend to nod off during the day, which not only can get us into trouble from bosses but can also cause severe accidents if we are driving or using ladders or machinery.

Weight - our body weight is affected by sleep and with it all the attendant health risks that come with being overweight. A chronic lack of sleep can actually alter the way our bodies store and burn carbohydrates, making us more likely to store them rather than uses them. Lack of sleep also stimulates the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, which is linked to an increase in abdominal fat, which in turn is the sort of fat most closely associated with heart conditions, strokes and diabetes..

General Quality of Life - regular loss of sleep can lead to irritability, impatience, lack of concentration, moodiness and stress. This in turn detrimentally affects relaxation time and our ability to unwind properly, which can lead to depression and will affect our ability to work productively. It's not a leap to connect lack of productivity in the workplace to redundancy or even getting fired.

Coronary and Respiratory Problems - apparently there is no extensive enough research yet revealing the full impact of sleep problems upon our hearts and lungs. However, serious sleeping disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia have been linked to irregular heart beats and high blood pressure. Also sleep deprivation increases stress hormones and lead to inflammation, two known factors in heart attacks.

Immunity - although all the reasons are not yet clear, it seems that sleep deficiency lowers the immune system's ability to fight illnesses like flu.

So there you have it. Insurance may be your lifeline if you're struck down with some illness or other, but surely prevention is better?

Get some sleep.

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