Are You Getting Enough Sleep

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Most people don’t get enough sleep. We are a society that burns the candle at both ends.  But there are health risks in both the short and long term of going without adequate sleep.

In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, the ability to learn and retain information and may increase the risk of accidents and injury. We’ve all experienced the fatigue, bad mood or lack of focus that so often follows a night of little or poor sleep.

In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even early mortality.

Most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly.  Some may need a little more and others less. As a general rule, if you wake up tired and want to nap it’s likely that you’re not getting enough sleep. A variety of factors can cause poor sleep, including health conditions such as sleep apnoea. But in most cases, it’s due to bad sleeping habits.

Here are a few ways in which a good night's sleep will help your health:

Immunity: Lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system, leaving you less able to fight off bugs.

Weight: Studies have shown that people who sleep less than seven hours a day tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of becoming obese. Sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).

Wellbeing: Given that a single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody the following day, it’s not surprising that chronic lack of sleep can lead to long-term mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Diabetes: Studies have suggested that people who usually sleep less than five hours a night have an increased risk of having or developing diabetes. Missing out on deep sleep may lead to type 2 diabetes by changing the way the body processes glucose.

Sex Drive: Adults who don’t get enough quality sleep have lower libidos and less of an interest in sex, research shows.

Heart Disease: Long-standing sleep deprivation seems to be associated with increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation, which may put extra strain on your heart.

Fertility: Regular sleep disruptions can cause trouble conceiving by reducing the secretion of reproductive hormones.

One early night won’t make up for months of sleep deprivation and recovery will take several weeks.  But don’t oversleep as that can also cause health problems. Oversleeping has been linked to physical problems such as diabetes and heart disease. According to the Mental Health Foundation, oversleeping can occur in 15-40% of people with depression.

If you have health conditions associated with lack of sleep then you may wish to seek advice from a health professional.

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