effects of poor sleep

Research continues to provide new information about sleep. Here are five negative health effects of poor sleep, and what you can do to help.

 

Sleep is categorized into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement sleep. Many negative effects of poor sleep have been attributed to excess, or a lack of, sleep. So what can be done to help with sleep?

Effects of Poor Sleep

Despite the evidence of negative health outcomes associated with varying sleep patterns, the effects caused by a lack of sleep continue to be overlooked. A lack of sleep has become a common topic of concern among individuals due to lifestyles comprising largely of stress, heavy workloads, and excessive technology usage. These are five health impacts associated with a lack, or poor quality, of sleep.

  1. Higher Risk of Atherosclerosis

A previous article reported that a lack of sleep may be associated with a higher risk of atherosclerosis. A European study found that in a population of 3974 bank employees, individuals who had less than six hours of sleep per night had a 27% higher risk of atherosclerosis. Those who reported poor sleep quality had a 36% increase in the risk of atherosclerosis. Based on these findings, there appears to be a link between heart health and the amount of, as well as the quality of sleep.

  1. More Susceptibility to Stress and Depression

In 2017, the Sleep Regularity Index (SRI) was developed to track an individual’s sleep patterns. In a previous research study, irregular sleeping patterns were associated with poor psychiatric health identified through experiences of depression symptoms and perceived stress. The study further reported a correlation between irregular sleep patterns and cardiovascular health. The article solidified findings of previous studies that also demonstrated an association between sleep patterns and mental health.

  1. Weight Gain

A study conducted in Sweden assessed the impact of less sleep on muscle and fat tissues. Tissue samples from fifteen individuals revealed changes in DNA methylation, which in turn affected metabolism and responses to DNA damage. Energy usage was also affected in muscle tissues due to sleep loss. Although further research is required to solidify this correlation, current evidence suggests that a lack of sleep may be related to weight gain from changes in the metabolism process.

  1. Greater Risk of Mood Disorders

Data collected from 90,000 participants suggests that there may be a link between disruptions in circadian rhythms and the risk of developing a mood disorder. The study reported that lower amplitudes in circadian rhythms were correlated to reduced well being, loneliness, reduced levels of happiness, slower reactions, and impaired judgement. This study provides evidence of the association between sleep patterns and neurocognitive function.

  1. Increased Risk of Diabetes

Individuals with later bedtimes tend to have increased disruption in their circadian rhythm as opposed to those with earlier bedtimes. A previous study reported that a decrease in the amount of sleep was associated with a higher body mass index. Lifestyle interventions leading to appropriate sleep duration and a lack of disruption during sleep may be beneficial in addressing body mass index and weight-related health concerns.

Products that Help with Sleep

Given the wide range of negative effects of poor sleep, it is necessary to maintain a lifestyle that incorporates an adequate sleep duration for optimal health. The following products can assist with achieving the right amount and quality of sleep.

Lavender

  • Evidence of creating a calming effect through olfactory senses
  • No serious side effects reported
  • Does not reduce motor function

Chamomile

  • Chamomile extract capsules were found to improve the quality of sleep
  • Possible treatment method for the elderly experiencing insomnia
  • Accessible, grown in India, Western Asia, and Western Europe

Melatonin

  • A hormone produced by the pineal gland that promotes sleep
  • Improved quality of sleep for individuals with sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)
  • Potential treatment for delays in circadian rhythms

Music/Headphones

  • Promotes relaxation and focus by drowning out external sounds
  • Distraction from negative thoughts
  • Avoids the possibility of side effects from medication treatments

Blackout Curtains/Eye Masks

  • Prevents insomnia due to disrupted sleep cycles from nighttime lighting
  • Low cost and accessible option for sleep therapy with little to no side effects
  • Useful for individuals in metropolitan areas with artificial lighting at night

Turn off Wi-Fi/Phone

  • Access to the web can lead to an inadequate amount of sleep
  • Turning off technological devices helps to promote sleep
  • Can assist with establishing a consistent sleeping pattern

Diet of Fruit and Vegetables

  • Various health benefits in addition to sleep benefits
  • Higher consumption of fruit and vegetables may be related to sleep duration
  • A modifiable factor that can reduce the risk of other health conditions that may lead to sleep problems

An adequate amount of good quality sleep can lead to better health outcomes in the short and long term. Although further research is required to solidify the beneficial effects of these products and interventions, it is clear that sleep is essential for the human body to function in an optimal manner.

 

Written by Shrishti Ahuja, HBSc

 

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