Not to scare you, but if — like nearly half of all Americans — you have trouble sleeping (or are otherwise shortchanging your needed night’s rejuvenation for personal or professional reasons), the consequences for your health and well-being can be substantial. Meaning that, if you have sleep issues, you should deal with them immediately to prevent or forestall any future health difficulties.
Consider the possible consequences of interrupted or impaired sleep:
- A dramatic weakening of your immune system
- Accelerated growth of tumors — tumors have been shown to grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions
- A pre-diabetic state, with the result that you will feel hungry even after you’ve already eaten; weight gain can ensue
- Memory impairment even from just one poor night’s sleep (six hours or less), affecting your ability to think clearly the next day
- Impaired physical and mental performance
- Exacerbation of stress-related issues, including stomach ulcers, constipation, depression and heart disease
Studies have shown that the most important hours for sleeping are between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. This is when your body is programmed to dump toxins (courtesy of your gall bladder). If you’re not sleeping during this critical period, the toxins back up into your liver, potentially causing further health problems.
Good sleep is also essential for the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. In addition to helping us sleep, melatonin is also an important natural antioxidant, which is why tumors thrive better when sleep is disrupted. The less melatonin, the better the tumors like it. Also, during deep sleep, your pituitary gland releases growth hormones, which keep you looking and feeling young.
Studies have also shown (here we go again trying to scare you) that people with dysfunctional sleep patterns are three times as likely as regular sleepers to die prematurely.
On many occasions, we’ve detailed how to employ good sleep hygiene approaches to help achieve the proper levels of sleep, but as with most goals in life, adopting good sleep hygiene techniques starts with the individual’s making a resolution to get on track toward that destination. So don’t put off something as important as sleep — and ultimately, your health and longevity — because of a life-style you’re hesitant or afraid to change. And if you need help, schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist. Good sleep is that important.