The Institute of Medicine issued a report that confirmed definite links between sleep deprivation and increased risks of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack and stroke.
Some scientists are also investigating connections between insufficient sleep and depressed immune function.
Sleep can work to activate or inhibit hormone production in the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that gives the body signals regarding when to adjust temperature, blood pressure, digestive secretions and immune activity. Insufficient sleep also inhibits the pancreas from producing insulin, the hormone required for the digestion of glucose.
A groundbreaking 1999 study showed that after six days on only four hours of sleep, healthy volunteers would fall into a pre-diabetic state. Sleep also gives the heart a chance to slow down, and those who slept less than six hours a night had as much as a 66 percent greater prevalence of hypertension.
The largest study of sleep duration and mortality followed over one million participants for six years. The results are significant. Those who slept about seven hours had the highest survival rate, and those who slept less than 4.5 hours had the worst. Nine hours of sleep or more each night was also associated with a higher mortality risk, however.
In general, a good night’s sleep seems to be as important to good health as a nutritious diet and regular exercise. Experts tend to agree that the majority of people require about eight hours of sleep each night. However, roughly 40 percent of Americans get fewer than seven hours of sleep on weekdays, and 71 percent get fewer than eight hours of sleep. As a result, most Americans accumulate two full weeks of “sleep debt” each year. The two main causes for sleep debt were long work hours and long commutes.
If you’re struggling with sleep, it’s likely that your health is fundamentally impaired. Fortunately, you can solve your sleep problem and boost your health in the process without the need for a health-harming drug, by taking advantage of some of the practical solutions outlined below:
- Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars. This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.
- Sleep in complete darkness or as close as possible. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin.
- No TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even out of the house, completely. It is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep.
- Wear socks to bed. Due to the fact that they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body. A study has shown that wearing socks reduces night wakings.
- Get to bed as early as possible. Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11PM and 1AM.
- Keep a low temperature in the bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes and particularly the upstairs bedrooms too hot.
- Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan need to produce melatonin and serotonin.
- If all else fails try melatonin. Avail in 2 or 3mg doses at any drugstore for about $5. for 60 tabs.