How does poor sleep affect our health?
Recent studies indicate that a third of Brits sleep for just five to six hours a night, which is significantly less than the general recommendation of seven to eight hours. Also, many people assume that as their pace of life slows down after retirement, we need less sleep. However, research suggests that our bodies need a constant amount of sleep throughout their adult lives.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to trigger weight gain, in addition to genetics and diet, as our bodies use leptin to regulate metabolism, appetite, and calorie intake. When you are sleep deprived, your body doesn’t produce enough leptin, causing your brain to believe that you don‘t have enough energy. You tell yourself you‘re hungry and consume more calories than you need to fuel your body in the future. This process can be especially challenging for older people who are less active because they find it more difficult to combat any weight gain that occurs as their metabolism slows.
When we age our immune system becomes increasingly vulnerable to common colds. Lack of sleep adds another dimension to further weaken the immune system‘s ability to fight viruses, since fewer antibodies are released when we don‘t sleep enough. A recent study found that those who sleep for less than five hours a night are 4.5 times more likely to get ill compared those who got more than seven hours.
Interestingly, long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and worsened blood sugar metabolism, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Sleep deprivation normally results in irritability, moodiness, and anxiety. It‘s no surprise that chronic sleep deprivation may lead to mental health issues like anxiety or depression.
Obviously, we all need a good night‘s sleep for various reasons. However, it‘s even more crucial as we age and our body‘s defenses and capacity to function on little energy fall.