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How Sleep Affects Your Health

December 20, 2022
How Sleep Affects Your Health | Sleep Reset

Most people understand the importance of regular sleep as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. But what health benefits does good sleep actually promote? This article will explore the connection between sleep and health, and provide some much-needed context as to why good sleep hygiene is so important.

How sleep affects your body

Like water, food, sunshine, and vitamins — sleep should be thought of as a pillar of health. The connection between sleep and health is important, and it’s easy to overlook the negative effects of not enough sleep.

According to the CDC, the average human needs at least seven hours of sleep each night. Not doing so could open the door to unpleasant illnesses and diseases, including:

  • Heart failure
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Gut-related illnesses

The CDC does not specify if certain sleeping conditions like sleep apnea or insomnia are more or less to blame for any specific type of health condition. So whatever may be ailing your slumber could have drastic unintended consequences for your health.

Proactively addressing any sleep impairments will do more than just restore your energy, but helps get your body back into a cycle that will better support a better lifestyle overall.

Sleep and heart health

According to the American Heart Association, a non-profit dedicated to promoting awareness and education for healthy hearts, a lack of sleep can be a sign of four threatening conditions that could damage the heart, including:

  • Weight gain: Sleep helps release the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which control appetite and hunger. When these hormones get off balance, your body can mistake exhaustion for hunger, leading to weight gain.
  • Diabetes: There is a direct relationship between lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes with stroke and heart attack.
  • Inflammation: The body can easily mistake inflammation for plaque, and thus wall off blood to the heart or brain in response. This can lead to an increase in the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Stroke and Heart Attack: We’ve covered how many alternative conditions can lead to heart attack due to a lack of sleep, but some studies show that oversleeping (10+ hours consistently) can lead to cardiovascular issues too.

The 7-8 hours of sleep rule wasn’t invented out of thin air. Over time, we’ve come to learn that 7-8 hours is the appropriate amount of sleep required for the average human. Sleeping too little can have dire consequences, as can oversleeping. So, the best course of action is to create a routine for yourself that promotes getting 7-8 hours of good sleep per night.

Sleep and gut health

The National Library of Medicine states that “partial sleep deprivation can alter the gut microbiome composition in as little as 48 hours.”

The “gut microbiome” is a fancy way of saying your stomach, which is made up of trillions of microorganisms. Such a complex and robust system can be debilitating to a human if it becomes compromised.

A disease you’ve probably heard of called “leaky gut” occurs when the lining of the stomach breaks making its function as a barrier to unwanted bacteria defunct. This type of gut-related illness is often consistent with a lack of sleep. When you are deprived of sleep, your body has a harder time producing cortisol, a hormone that controls stress. If you’re overtired and feeling more stressed out, as a result, conditions like leaky gut and IBS may occur.

Sleep and neurological health

Your overall cognition, both in the short term and long term, can be negatively affected by a lack of sleep.

Specifically, there is a connection between Alzheimer's and sleep disturbances. Sleep disturbances are often the case of someone who intends to sleep 7-8 hours per night, but who gets easily interrupted. Compared to a lack of sleep, which is often a function of not setting aside enough time to get 7-8 hours. Both types can lead to undesirable cognitive results.

Sleep and the immune system

The Mayo Clinic states emphatically that lack of sleep makes you more prone to picking up a virus, and makes it tougher to recover when you do.

When getting proper sleep, the body releases cytokines, a protein the body deploys when it is fighting inflammation or foreign bacteria. If a lack of sleep is present, the body cannot release cytokines as efficiently, leaving the body to be more susceptible to illness and viruses.

Sleep and mental health

We’ve already shown the relationship between a lack of sleep and neurological impacts, however, those are conditions that require physical treatment. Where a lack of sleep can also be a silent killer, is in overall mood, mental state, and anxiety levels that don’t require an immediate hospital visit.

According to Columbia Psychiatry, a lack of sleep can be both an onset symptom, and a consistent driver of, depression and anxiety. Of course, when these attacks on our mental health become too strong, the outcomes can be dire and tragic.

That isn’t to suggest that a lack of sleep here and there is going to automatically lead to a downward spiral, but letting yourself cheat on a good night’s sleep too frequently may lead to your mental state not being at its sharpest. 

Sleep can be healing

To sum it up, sleep is vital to your health. For mental, immune, neurological, gut, and heart health, ensuring you’re getting enough sleep each night will play just as big a role as a good diet and exercise.

If you need to think of it a different way, think of sleep as a healing agent. It’s when your body gets to recover from the day before and prepare itself for the day ahead. Depriving it of that for any reason ultimately has the biggest impact on you. Here at Sleep Reset, we think you deserve better.

Do yourself a favor, and get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you find yourself struggling with getting good sleep, and want to take the first step into getting it under control, take our free sleep assessment.

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