New year’s resolution- Get enough sleep? Yes, getting the right amount of sleep is just as important as good healthy diet and a regular fitness routine for a healthy body. For a good number of years, I took getting adequate sleep for granted because of my job as an emergency room physician. My work would require me to switch for days to nights and vise-versa on an irregular pattern. Looking back, I would say my health problems are related to over forty years sleep deprivation. Honestly, during that period I did not know much about the importance of adequate sleep. Being young one feels invincible in fact I often hear fellow workers say with macho pride, “I get by with five hours of sleep.”
I am surprised by a study in the British Journal of Cardiology that report that the average life span of emergency physicians is only 57.5 years that is about 14 years lower that the average lifespan of physicians in general which is 73 years.
According to the Center Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 35% of people are sleep deprived and they also report about the same amount people are obese. This connection may not be just coincidence. To stay healthy one has to eat less and move or exercise more. When one is sleep deprived one tends to eat more and exercise less. One may be accused of being lazy, having lack of will power or has just has a genetic trait causing their obesity, when the culprit all along is sleep deprivation.
Sleeping less than seven hours a night could negate the benefits of good diet and exercise according to a research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and that insufficient sleep in it self may contribute to obesity. Many of us believes that hunger is related to will power and learning to control the cravings of our stomachs, but that is not true. Two hormones control our appetites: leptin and ghrelin. The lesser leptin you produce the more hungry you get, on the other hand the more ghrelin you produce the more hungry you get. Sleep deprivation lowers your leptin level and increases your ghrelin level making it really hard to lose weight. A hormone called cortisol also increases your appetite; this too is increases with loss of sleep. If you’re sleep deprived even after a good meal you may still feel hungry.
Matthew Walker in his book “Why Sleep” says one really can’t get by with six to seven hours of sleep at night, we need an average of eight hours a night. Experts recommends going to sleep and waking up at the same time every night and avoiding TVs, computers or cell phones at least half an hour before bedtime. For more sleeping tips: click 10 tips
Health dangers of sleep deprivation:
- Increase risk of developing type II diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
- Diminished immune function
- Mood disorder
- Memory problems
- Judgment and Safety
Type II Diabetes
Increase risk for type II diabetes is associated obesity especially with with people who slept 5 hours or less a night. This group was found to have insulin resistance; fortunately improved sleep positively influences blood sugar control.
Cardiovascular Disease and Hypertension
Studies showed that even moderately reduced sleep six-seven hours a night greatly increase the risk of coronary heart disease (calcium build up in the arteries) which causes heart attack, hypertension, strokes and irregular heart beat. Studies also have shown that sleep deprivation due sleep apnea leads to the same problems. Dr. Amneet Sandhu reported his study in 2014 at the American College of Cardiology that the Monday after day light saving time there was a 25% increase in heart attacks compared to other Mondays of the year and a 21% drop on the Monday after the clock was put back to standard time.
Diminished Immune Function
Many studies have shown effects of sleep deprivation ability to fight infection. In a recent study showed that people who slept less than seven hours a night were three times more to get common cold symptoms when exposed to cold-causing rhinovirus in volunteers compare to those who slept 8 hours.
Everybody knows that poor and inadequate sleep causes irritability and stress. Chronic insomnia (lack of sleep) may cause psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. People who have depression and anxiety disorders have trouble sleeping as part of those disorders. Studies have shown that people who have insomnia had five times more problems with depression compared to those who did not have insomnia.
Inadequate sleep appears to affect the brain’s ability to consolidate factual information and procedural memory. Studies have shown that only 11 percent of students sleep well, 40 percent feel well rested 2 nights a week. Memory consolidation occurs in sleep immediately following the lesson. Learning involves three processes: acquisition, consolidation and recall.
A recent study came out summer 2017 that showed in sleep deprived individuals had higher levels proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia of the brain.
Judgment and Safety
Did you know that one sleepless night can impair your performance as much as blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent which is considered beyond the legal limit to drive. I still recall those times coming home from work from long night duties when I would transiently black out and be awaken hitting the curve or the gravel at the side of the road. I guess I must have been lucky or someone much has been watching over me, to not have had any serious or fatal car accidents. Institute of Medicine estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for 20 percent of vehicle crushes. That would mean 1 million crushes, 500,000 injuries and 8,000 deaths each year in the US. Thank God I am not part of that statistic.
Studies done on errors committed by medical intern physicians in the care of ICU patients, one-quarter of those errors were attributed to their being sleep deprived due to extreme work schedule. Given that medical errors causes about 100,000 deaths a year in the US, sleep deprivation at work by nurses and doctors is considered major health issue. Staying awake for 17 to 24 hours and working or driving is like doing it under the influence of alcohol.
To add it all up, “Chronic lack of adequate sleep over time is with a shortened lifespan.”
Laurence T. Gayao MD, Total Fitness Medicine