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.

Tips for Better Sleep

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How you feel while you are awake can heavily depend on how well you slept the night before. Similarly, your daily routine can also have an impact on the quality of rest you get at night. It is important to experiment with different sleep strategies to see what works best for you.

– Sticking with a sleep schedule, even on weekends, is one of the most important strategies for getting a good night’s rest. Being consistent reinforces you body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night.

– It is important to avoid naps if you have regular trouble falling asleep at night. If you must nap, keep it brief (20 minutes or less) and do it early in the day. Any shut eye within eight hours of your bedtime can sabotage a good night’s sleep.

– Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality as long as you don’t work out too close to bedtime. Aim to finish any vigorous exercise 3-4 hours before you go to sleep.

– Avoid heavy foods and big meals late in the day and finish snacks at least an hour before bed.200434115-001

– Managing your stress plays a big factor in getting a good night’s rest. When you have too much on your mind, your sleep is likely to suffer. Before bed, write down what is on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.

– Soothing “white noise” can mask undesired distractions such as traffic noise or a partner’s snoring. Using a fan, air conditioner or white noise generator in the bedroom can help neutralize sounds that can keep you up at night.

– The bedroom should be reserved strictly for sleep and intimacy. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment and avoid activities that cause anxiety and prevent you from falling asleep.