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Sleep and Health: the Undeniable Connection

June 5th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

Does a lack of sleep leave you like this every day?

Does a lack of sleep leave you like this every day?

Do you struggle to get enough sleep, like about half the adult population in our country?

If so, you probably feel sluggish during that “low point” in your day, when you just can’t seem to hold your eyes open without a double mocha latte or a shot of cappuccino.

Well, you may be able to glide through your week on five or six hours of sleep a night for a while; but eventually, a lack of sleep will catch up with you—in more ways than one.

Unfortunately, struggling to stay awake during the day may be the least of your worries, scientists say. A recent article in the New York Times revealed the true effects of sleep deprivation: health problems such as high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, depression, diabetes and heart disease.

And issues like that can also affect your insurance rates, as many who buy private health insurance later find out.

The amount of sleep each person needs varies, with some breezing through their days on just a few hours’ slumber and others barely functioning without nine or 10 hours. But new research shows that most people need between seven and nine hours to stay both alert and healthy.

“Lack of sleep disrupts every physiologic function in the body,” says Eve Van Cauter, a sleep researcher at the University of Chicago.

It’s this disruption in the body’s basic processes that can cause things to go awry, leading to all kinds of health problems we may never encounter otherwise.

But that’s not all. Recent studies also indicate that the amount of time a person spends sleeping affects his or her chances of living a long life.

“There’s recent evidence showing—in both men and women in several countries—that chronic sleep deprivation increases risk of early death,” Carl Hunt, MD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, told WebMD recently.

Several large sleep studies cite other problems connected with sleep deprivation too: problems like poor work performance, driving accidents, relationship problems and issues with mood and anger.

If you struggle with insomnia, or don’t get to bed early enough to get a full eight hours, you could be affected more than you know. Find out how deadly a lack of sleep can be—and do what you can to stay healthy, get enough sleep and live long.

More Resources on the Sleep/Health Connection:

At Every Age, Feeling the Effects of Too Little Sleep

Scientists Finding out What Losing Sleep Does to a Body

Sleep Habits: More Important Than You Think

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