A lot of people have issues with lack of sleep. I started reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD recently because I want to know why we need sleep and what happens in our bodies while we sleep.
Part of the reason for wanting to know more is because I am an affiliate with a company that sells sleep products. It’s a good idea to know the potential benefits from the products I endorse.
I didn’t realize there would be so much information about the dangers from lack of sleep in just the first few pages. And I’m not talking about the obvious sleep issues like driving while you’re tired, which should be enough for anybody.
All of this info comes from the first two and a half pages of text in Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD.
So, what are all of these risks?
A Sleep Epidemic
You have to start off a book like this one with some shocking statistics. How about the fact that two-thirds of adults throughout all of the developed nations do not get the recommended eight hours of sleep every night.
That’s a lot of people going around every day tired from lack of sleep.
The thing is, groups recognize that it is a problem. The books points out that the World Health Organization has declared a sleep loss epidemic throughout the industrialized nations.
But you know, I haven’t seen any mainstream attention on this. The news likes to report on disease outbreaks, but I haven’t seen anything about this epidemic that is happening right here in our own country.
Why? I wish I knew.
Health Risks from Lack of Sleep
It seems like everyone is struggling to lose weight in one way or another. I have read before that lack of sleep can make it difficult to lose weight. I didn’t know that a lack of sleep can actually make you gain weight.
The books says that too little sleep increases the concentration of a hormone that makes you feel hungry while suppressing a companion hormone that tells you that you’re full.
The short version is that shorting your sleep makes you feel hungry when you shouldn’t be, so you eat and gain weight.
The author also says that it is a waste of time to diet if you don’t make sure to get enough sleep at the same time. Without enough sleep your body will burn up lean body mass (muscle) instead of the fat. You lose what you want to keep and you keep what you want to lose.
More Serious Health Issues
Since we were just talking about weight and food, here’s a related one for you. Inadequate sleep disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic.
Diabetes is becoming a bigger and bigger issue all the time and it sounds to me like he’s saying that a good night sleep might be a good way to take care of yourself.
Speaking of blood, he also says that short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.
In addition to blood-related issues, regularly sleeping less than six or seven hours a night damages your immune system. The author actually said it “demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.”
If it messes up your immune system then a lack of sleep could increase your chances of picking up any infections disease, from a common cold, to the flu, to even worse viral infections.
Lack of Sleep Messes With Your Head
The author says that “insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease.”
He also says that “sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety and suicidality.”
Then there’s always that scary statistic about driving while tired. The author calls tired driving a “deadly circumstance” then follows it up with “drowsy driving is the cause of hundreds of thousands of traffic accidents and fatalities each year.”
Even worse, tired driving doesn’t just affect the one who is tired. A drowsy driver puts the lives of everyone around them at risk too. One person dies in a traffic accident every hour in the US due to a fatigue-related error.
What To Do?
There are two issues to address here. One is the choice of whether you get enough sleep or not, the other is with your ability to get the sleep you need.
Lifestyle demands affect the choice part. You have to get up early to get to work on time, or to get to school. If that’s you then there are really only two options – get a new job with better hours, or go to bed earlier.
One of my several reasons for homeschooling my kids is that they would have to get up at 5AM to get ready for the school bus by 6. Fortunately I have the luxury to take that option. I know a lot of parents don’t.
Inability to Sleep
Some people have a really hard time getting to sleep at night or don’t stay asleep for very long once the do fall asleep.
Your sleep environment and your habits prior to going to bed can have a big effect on your ability to fall asleep at night.
Here are some things that can improve your ability to fall asleep:
- No caffeine after dinner. Caffeine stays in your system much longer than you think.
- Shut off the electronics at least an hour before you go to bed. Backlit screens can affect your brain’s preparation for sleep. That includes the TV, computer, tablet and phone. Read a book instead.
- Make your bedroom dark. Lights, either the streetlight out your window or lights on electronics, can interrupt your sleep. I use a magnetic sleep mask.
- Use pajamas, bedding, pillow and a mattress that properly support you and keep you a good temperature for sleeping. I use a magnetic mattress topper, pillow and comforter.
Those are just some simple ideas that I use to help make sure I get a good night sleep. Please share any other ideas you have in a comment below.
It’s worth making some changes to improve your sleep if it helps you avoid any of the problems that can come form a lack of sleep.
Thanks for reading. If you found value in this then please share it with your followers on social media.