Losing Sleep Is A Health Hazard, Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Losing sleep is bad for our health, and research points out why the human body suffers when deprived of quality sleep.
Many people are at risk, including those who struggle with insomnia as well as people who work long, erratic hours or night shifts.
Emergency medicine personnel often fall into the latter category, research presented at the Y 2016 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America revealed the toll it can take on their hearts.
Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany took images of radiologists’ hearts before and after a 24-hr shift, during which they got only about 3 hs of sleep. Significant heart strain, a precursor to heart problems, was noted following the sleep deprivation.
Other concerning changes, including an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and thyroid hormones, which is indicative of a stress response, were also noted.
People who sleep less than 7 hours a night have an increased risk of heart disease, and this is true regardless of other factors that influence heart health, like age, weight, smoking and exercise habits.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF): “One study that examined data from 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than 6 hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept 6 to 8 hours per night.
It’s not completely clear why less sleep is detrimental to heart health, but researchers understand that sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure and inflammation.”
It is no coincidence then that people who struggle with sleep apnea, which causes frequent nighttime awakenings, often have heart troubles.
Women with sleep apnea tend to have higher levels of the protein troponin T, which is a marker for heart damage, and are more likely to have an enlarged heart, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
” … [W]ithout long, deep periods of rest,” NSF noted, “certain chemicals are activated that keep the body from achieving extended periods in which heart rate and blood pressure are lowered.”
This may also increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.
It is not only people with a sleep disorder like sleep apnea who are at risk. Sleep disruptions due to insomnia, poor sleep habits or work schedules may also put your heart health at risk.
A recent study found that even among children, shorter sleep duration is associated with increased arterial stiffness, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
When people do not get enough sleep their problem-solving skills dwindle and their reaction time slows. Long lapses in attention and decreased response accuracy, which are especially problematic while driving, also occur.
In a report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers compared driving drowsy to driving with a blood alcohol concentration considered legally drunk.
Lack of sleep, even by 1 or 2 hours, nearly 2X’d study participants’ risk of a car accident the following day. If sleep deprivation increased, with participants sleeping just 4 or 5 hrs a night, their risk of a car crash 4X’d.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: “Previous research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has estimated as many as 7% of all crashes, 13% of crashes that result in hospital admission and 21% of fatal crashes involve driver drowsiness.”
So, if you have trouble sleeping, now is the time to take action to get a better night’s rest.
Perhaps the most important natural way of all for improving your sleep is to make sure you are getting proper exposure to bright light during the day and no exposure to blue light at night.
In the morning, bright, blue light-rich Sunlight signals to your body that it is time to wake up. At night, as the Sun sets, darkness should signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Ideally, to help your circadian system reset itself, get at least 10 to 15 mins of natural light first thing in the morning. This will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals later.
Then, around solar Noon, get another “dose” of at least 30 mins’ worth of Sunlight. A full hour or more is better. If your schedule is such that you have to get up and arrive at work before Sunrise, aim to get at least 30 mins of bright Sunlight sometime during the day.
In the evening when the sun begins to set, put on amber-colored glasses that block blue light. You can also dim your lights and turn off electronic devices to reduce your exposure to light that may stifle your melatonin production.
Better still, swap out LEDs for incandescent or low-voltage incandescent halogen lights.
After Sundown, experts say to shift to a low-wattage bulb with yellow, orange or red light if you need illumination. A salt lamp illuminated by a 5-watt bulb is an ideal solution that will not interfere with your melatonin production.
Candle light also works well, I like candles.
Optimized your light exposure daily, and then go for a good night’s Sleep.
Have a terrific week.