Not getting enough sleep can have an immediate impact on your life. It can make it harder to focus, impair judgment, and make you more irritable.
It can also lead to accidents and injuries at work or while driving. Even just one hour of missed sleep can significantly elevate your risk of getting in a car crash.
But lack of sleep is not just a short-term issue. If you are routinely getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night, this can lead to serious chronic health problems down the road.
Inadequate Sleep and Chronic Illness
There is a strong link between inadequate sleep and multiple chronic illnesses.
Low-quality sleep is a known risk factor for:
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- metabolic syndrome
- heart disease
- premature death
A recent study published in October 2022 also found that older adults who slept less were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with multiple chronic disorders—not just one.
This research highlights the importance of getting enough sleep, not just for your immediate health and well-being but also to reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases later in life.
Why Does Lack Of Sleep Raise Your Risk Of Chronic Illness?
Several different mechanisms have been proposed to explain how sleep deprivation can lead to chronic illness.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to inflammation, which is a risk factor for many chronic diseases.
Sleep deprivation may also disrupt the normal function of your immune system. This makes you more susceptible to infections, which can also contribute to chronic inflammation.
In addition, sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce the levels of certain hormones that are important for regulating metabolism. This can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Sleep also gives your body the time it needs to repair and regenerate. So if you have other risk factors or underlying health conditions, lack of sleep can make it harder for your body to recover and may lead to further complications.
Tips for Getting Better Sleep
If you need more sleep, there are some things you can do to improve the situation.
- Make sure your sleeping environment is dark, quiet, and cool.
- Establish a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
- Only use dim lighting in the evening, and limit screen time (TV, phone, computer) for at least an hour before bed.
- Be more physically active during the day.
- Try light activities like stretching or yoga before bed.
- Reduce your stress levels with relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing.
If you are still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. You may have a sleep disorder that requires medical treatment.