May 2013 | Newsletter archives
Get some sleep. It could save your life.
Sleeping well is vital for physical, mental and emotional health. But there has been a gradual reduction in the average amount of sleep people get, with research showing that one person in five feels unusually tired and one in ten has prolonged fatigue.
If you sleep less than six hours a night and have disturbed sleep, you stand a 48 per cent greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15 per cent greater chance of developing or dying from a stroke, according to a study from the University of Warwick.
According to new research from Harvard Medical School, men over 65 who spend little time in deep sleep are at particularly high risk of developing high blood pressure. A study of 784 patients, published in the journal Hypertension, found that high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other health problems.
Lack of sleep causes stress on the body, causing the heart to beat faster. Getting too much sleep – more than nine hours at a time – may also be an indicator of illness, including cardiovascular disease.
Getting better sleep might also help in the battle against obesity. One study of 472 obese people, published in the International Journal of Obesity, involved participants eating 500 fewer calories per day, along with exercise most days. Those getting too little or too much sleep were less likely to have lost weight over a six-month period.
Poor sleep can even lead to suicide. The University of Michigan found that people with two or more symptoms of insomnia were 2.6 times more likely to report a suicide attempt. Meanwhile, Columbia University Medical Centre in New York found that 12 to 18-year-olds who went to bed after midnight were 20 per cent more likely to think about suicide than those whose bedtime was 10 pm or earlier, while those who had less than five hours sleep a night had a 48 per cent higher risk of suicidal thoughts compared with those who had eight hours of sleep.
Lack of sleep might even lead to type 2 diabetes. A stepping stone to the condition, known as impaired fasting glucose, occurs when blood sugar levels are too high, but not high enough to constitute a diagnosis of diabetes. Researchers from the University of Buffalo in New York, found that those who slept less than six hours a night during the working week were 4.6 times more likely to develop impaired fasting glucose than those sleeping six to eight hours per night.
• Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time helps program your body to sleep better.
• A clutter-free bedroom –no television or computers – is essential for rest.
• Exercise helps contribute to restful nights, but it has the opposite effect if done near bedtime – except for sex, which is actually conducive to sleep.
• Sleep for seven to eight hours at a time.
• If your mattress is more than a decade old, you should think about replacing it as a poor quality mattress could seriously affect your sleep.