The health benefits of good sleep


Woman Sleeping

Getting enough sleep can help protect you from illness. During sleep hormones are released into the bloodstream and our body repairs itself after the day’s wear and tear. That repair and maintenance work includes your immune system too. Research shows that chronic lack of sleep is linked to colds and flu, heart disease, diabetes, mental health and obesity.

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, the underlying condition where the body doesn’t utilise this sugar-processing hormone. Sleep deprivation has been shown in one study to impair glucose tolerance which is a precursor to developing diabetes. Another study observed that people in their late twenties and early thirties who got less than 6.5 hours’ sleep a night had the insulin sensitivity of someone in their 60’s.

Several studies have indicated a link between sleep deprivation and obesity in both adults and children.  One study found that people who slept less than 5 hours a night were 73% more likely to become obese than those getting the generally ideal 7 – 9 hours a night.  It has been proposed through the results of another study that lack of sleep may be a bigger contributor to childhood obesity than any other factor.  The reasons are still unknown but it might be due to hormonal imbalances that a lack of sleep creates.  Lack of sleep has been linked to lower levels of leptin, the hormone that reduces hunger.

Heart disease
Who would ever have thought lack of sleep could lead to heart disease?  Inflammation is the culprit here.  A lack of sleep causes an inflammatory response in the blood vessels and arteries of the cardiovascular system.  Long term sleep deprivation causes chronic inflammation and it is this chronic inflammation that has been linked to heart attacks, stroke and diabetes.

Brain health and memory
If you’re chronically sleep deprived, your memory and co-ordination are impaired, as are your judgement and reaction times.  Driving or operating heavy or dangerous equipment can be extremely dangerous. In fact, a sleep deprived driver is as dangerous behind the wheel of a car as a drunk person.

On the positive side, the damage caused by insufficient sleep can be undone.  Unless you get so chronically sleep deprived that you’ve caused permanent damage to your health, the body responds quickly when you change back to a normal, good night’s sleep and many of the conditions above can repair themselves.  That said, prevention is always better than cure so even though there will always be times when you have to sacrifice some sleep – maybe you have a teething or colicky baby, perhaps you’re studying while working  –  as far as possible, always do your best to get the best amount of sleep you know you need every night. Your health depends on it!

PS. If you find you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, A.Vogel Dormeasan are herbal drops made from Valerian and hops that can help.  Formulated by Alfred Vogel, Dormeasan is a sleeping aid, not a sleeping pill. If you just need a little help getting better quality sleep, then you’re a Dormeasan person.

Did you know?
Did you know that toddlers don’t dream about themselves?  They don’t appear in their own dreams until they’re about 3 or 4 years old.  On average we dream about one or two hours every night, often having 4 to 7 dreams a night.

Donna Arand, PhD, DABSM, clinical director, Kettering Sleep Disorders Center, Dayton, Ohio.
Associated Press: “Clinton: Lack of Sleep Added to Health Problem.”
Spiegel, K. TheLancet, Oct. 23, 1999; vol 354: pp 1435-1439.
Science News: “Does lack of sleep lead to diabetes?”
WebMD Medical Reference: “Lack of Sleep and the Immune System.”