How often do you hear someone say, “I had a great night’s sleep last night!” or “I feel refreshed and energetic!”? Probably not very often. Feeling sluggish seems to be the new normal. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, it is the new normal: most people are sleep-deprived. But not getting enough sleep may be causing more trouble for you than just that pesky drowsy feeling: it could be seriously harming your health.
Why aren’t we sleeping?
Centuries ago, it was common for people to sleep 8 to 9 hours each day. But now, only about 25% of People get 8 or more hours of sleep. The reasons we are not sleeping are many. We live in a 24/7 society —practically anything we want to do is available around the clock, from fitness centers to pharmacies to department stores.
We are working long hours, transporting our kids to activities, trying to make time for friends and fitness and entertainment. When the heat is on, the first thing to go is usually sleep. And it’s usually not even a conscious decision to skimp on sleep-we just get in bed a little later most nights, because we are so pressed and pushed.
But even when we get into bed, we aren’t guaranteed sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 60% of People have sleep problems. That means more than half of us struggle to sleep. And it is taking its toll.
Dangers of sleep deprivation
“The foundations of good health are good diet, good exercise and good sleep, but two out of three doesn’t get you there,”1
— Dr. Anne Calhoun, neurology professor, University of North Carolina.
Eating healthily and getting plenty of exercise are not enough to make up for the danger that sleep deprivation poses to your health. Adults need around 8 hours of sleep each night, although some studies indicate that as little as 7 and one-half hours can be sufficient. Getting less than that can have serious consequences:
But without enough sleep you will also feel more stressed, which encourages the production of the hormone cortisol in your body. This hormone causes you to crave high-carbohydrate foods such as potato chips and brownies, and then deposits those carbs as fat around your belly—the most dangerous place to store fat.
Pre-diabetes is also a risk for those who don’t get enough sleep. Trying to get by on less than 6 hours of sleep per night can cause impaired glucose tolerance.
When you do not get enough sleep, your immune system becomes stressed and compromised. You actually have a decrease in white blood cells, and those that remain are less active. The result is that you will get sick more often.
Make time for sleep
The truth is, if you don’t make time now for adequate sleep, you will likely be forced in the future to make time for illness. It may take significant effort to arrange your schedule and priorities to carve out time for more sleep, but the payoff will be increased health, energy and productivity!
Ready for a nap?