Lack of Sleep: A Public Health Epidemic

Getting decent sleep at night is a key part of a healthy lifestyle and can benefit your heart, weight and mind. It’s important to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night because lack of sleep can affect your health, looks and even your ability to lose weight. When you don’t get enough sleep at night, it doesn’t just make you cranky in the morning, but it can also lead to serious long term health risks.

Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get six or less hours of sleep a night have higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood than those who get more hours of sleep a night.

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Lack of sleep can suppress your immune system, which makes you vulnerable to infections. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation or when you’re under stress. In addition, infection fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.

Many people have experienced sickly, yellow skin and puffy eyes as a result of missing a few nights of sleep. It turns out that chronic sleep loss can also lead to lackluster skin, fine lines and dark circles under the eyes.

When you don’t get enough sleep your body releases more stress hormones. In excess amounts, this hormone can break down skin collagen, the protein that keep skin smooth and elastic.

Many of us try to sleep as little as possible. While so many things seem more interesting or important than getting a few more hours of sleep, just like exercise and nutrition are vital to staying healthy, so is getting the good night’s rest.