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5 Major Health Disorders Caused By Disturbed Sleep

Written by Dr. Lozynska Liudmyla Yaroslavivna on Fri, 11 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • Lack of sleep in the long term may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases
  • Sleep is also vital for a proper immune response; lack of sleep can weaken your immune system
  • Insufficient sleep can increase body's susceptibility to infections and hamper the ability to fight illnesses
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"We spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping. It is a basic human need crucial for our overall health and well-being."

Sleep is essential not just to help you feel more refreshed & energized, but to allow the cells in our muscles, organs, and brain to repair and renew every night. Sleep also helps regulate our metabolism and hormone levels.

When these processes are out of whack due to disturbed sleep, it may increase your risk of health problems. Want to know about the optimal sleep time for health and productivity? Read more to find out.

What are Sleep Disorders

Lack of sleep can be caused by sleep disorders. Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that affect the ability to sleep well on a regular basis. Whether they are caused by a health problem or by too much stress, sleep disorders are becoming increasingly common.

Most people occasionally experience sleep problems due to stress, hectic schedules, and other outside influences. However, when these issues begin to occur on a regular basis and interfere with the daily life, they may indicate a sleeping disorder.

Lack of Sleep: Impact on Day-to-Day Life

Depending on the type of sleep disorder, people may have a difficult time falling asleep and may feel extremely tired throughout the day. Lack of sleep can also have a negative impact on your energy, mood, concentration, and overall health.

In some cases, lack of sleep can be a symptom of another medical or mental health condition. These sleeping problems may eventually go away once the underlying cause is treated.

When lack of sleep is not caused by another condition, treatment usually involves a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes. It is important to receive a diagnosis and treatment right away, if you suspect that you are suffering from a sleep disorder. When left untreated, the negative impact of lack of sleep can lead to further health consequences.

They can also affect your performance at work, cause strain in relationships, and impair your ability to perform day-to-day activities. However, southeast Asians simply don't get the required amount of sleep, and this lack of sleep may lead to health issues and reduced productivity.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, with 35% of Malaysians and 20% of Thais suffering from it.

The Relation Between Sleep and Health

Malaysia and the Philippines were two of the ASEAN countries in the seven-year survey titled 'Association of estimated sleep duration and naps with mortality and cardiovascular events: a study of 116,632 people from 21 countries.

The Healthiest Workplace Survey for 2019 showed that 46% of Sri Lankan respondents were getting 6 hours or less sleep each night, though the optimal sleep time for health and productivity is considered to be a minimum of 7 hours.

The cost of disturbed sleep is much greater than many people think: it can have profound consequences on our long-term health. Research has revealed that people who consistently fail to get enough sleep are at an increased risk of chronic diseases.

We all have some sense of the relationship between sleep and our ability to function throughout the day. After all, everyone has experienced the negative effects of lack of sleep like fatigue, bad mood, or lack of focus that so often follow a night of poor sleep.

What many people don't realize is that lack of sleep—especially on a regular basis—is associated with long-term health consequences, including chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart diseases, and that these conditions may lead to decreased life expectancy. On the contrary, additional research studies show that habitually sleeping more than nine hours is also associated with poor health.

Treating sleep as a priority, rather than a luxury, may be an important step in preventing a number of chronic medical conditions.

Causes for Lack of Sleep

Advancements in technology & internet have led to increased connectivity and a busy world where people are spending more time than ever using electronic devices like phones, laptops, etc. rather than communicating with their family & friends. Various studies have shown that the light emitted by screens of cell phones, computers and televisions, etc. decreases melatonin production (a hormone that regulates night-day cycles/sleep-wake cycles).

causes for lack of sleep

Stress was found to be the number one reason keeping Singaporeans up at night, with 61% of them losing sleep over worry or stress. Additionally, other major factors that keep Singaporeans up at night include their environment of sleep (35%) and distraction due to entertainment such as television and social media (30%).

5 Major Health Disorders Caused by Lack of Sleep

Health disorders caused by lack of sleep

As chronic diseases have assumed an increasingly common role in premature death and illness, interest in the role of sleep health in the development and management of chronic diseases has grown. Notably, lack of sleep has been linked to the development of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, lower immune function, and depression.

1. Obesity

Several studies have linked lack of sleep and weight gain. For example, studies have shown that people who habitually slept less than six hours per night are much more likely to have a higher.

than average body mass index (BMI) and that people who sleep eight hours have the lowest BMI. Lack of sleep is now being seen as a potential risk factor for obesity along with the two most commonly identified risk factors: lack of exercise and overeating. Research into the mechanisms involved in regulating metabolism and appetite are beginning to explain what the connection between sleep and obesity might be.

When we sleep, our bodies secrete a hormone which helps control appetite, energy metabolism, and glucose processing. Lack of sleep upsets the balance of this and other hormones. For example, disturbed sleep leads to an increase in the production of a hormone called cortisol, often referred to as the "stress hormone." Poor sleep is also associated with increases in the secretion of insulin following a meal. Insulin regulates glucose processing and promotes fat storage; higher levels of insulin are associated with weight gain, which is a potential risk factor for diabetes.

Disturbed sleep is also associated with lower levels of leptin, a hormone that alerts the brain that you have had enough food, as well as higher levels of ghrelin, a biochemical that stimulates appetite. As a result, lack of sleep or little sleep may result in sugary cravings even after we have eaten an adequate amount of calories. We may also be more likely to eat foods such as sweets that satisfy the craving for a quick energy boost. In addition, lack of sleep may leave us even more tired to burn off these extra calories with exercise.

2. Diabetes

Researchers have found that lack of sleep may lead to type 2 diabetes as it also influences the way our body processes glucose, which is the high-energy carbohydrate that cells use as fuel. A study found that a group of healthy subjects who had their sleep cut back from 8 to 4 hours per night processed 'glucose' more slowly than they did when they were permitted to sleep 12 hours. Various studies also have revealed that adults who usually sleep less than five hours per night have a greatly increased risk of having or developing diabetes.

When you don't get enough sleep, the hormone levels in your body can also become irregular. This includes cortisol, a hormone that keeps your body awake. When there is lack of sleep, our body may produce additional 'cortisol'. While cortisol increases in the body, blood sugar levels can increase as well. While this occurs to a small degree within the body naturally, this phenomenon is affected by the type of food we eat.

In an attempt to balance the increase in blood sugar levels, your pancreas will produce extra insulin to process the additional sugar in the body. While our body produces more stress hormone, it is harder for insulin to do its job effectively, resulting in unhealthy amounts of glucose in the bloodstream. Over time, the pancreas cannot keep up with the work of keeping your blood sugar levels normal. This difficulty in regulating blood sugar levels is called Type II Diabetes.

In addition, researchers have correlated obstructive sleep apnea (a disorder in which a person faces breathing difficulties during sleep which leads to frequent arousals) with the development of impaired glucose control similar to that which occurs in diabetes.

3. Cardiovascular diseases

Even minor periods of inadequate sleep can cause an elevation in blood pressure. Cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease and irregular heartbeats (cardiac arrhythmias) have been found to be more common among those with sleep disorders than in their peers without sleep abnormalities. Studies have found that a single night of inadequate sleep in people who have existing hypertension can cause elevated blood pressure throughout the day. This effect may begin to explain the correlation between poor sleep and cardiovascular diseases for example, a study found that sleeping too little (less than six hours) or too much (more than nine hours) increased the risk of coronary heart disease in women.

There is also growing evidence of a connection between obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease. People who have apnea typically wake up multiple times each night as a result of the closing of their airway when they fall asleep. In addition to these sleep disturbances, those suffering from sleep apnea also experience brief surges in blood pressure each time they wake up. Over time, this can lead to the chronic elevation of blood pressure also known as hypertension, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Fortunately, when sleep apnea is treated, blood pressure may go down.

Likewise, sleep apnea and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) appear to share some common physiological characteristics, further suggesting that sleep apnea may be an important predictor of cardiovascular disease.

4. Depression

The relationship between sleep and depression is complex. While sleep disturbance has long been held to be an important symptom of depression, recent research has indicated that depressive symptoms may decrease once sleep apnea has been effectively treated and sufficient sleep restored.

The interrelatedness of sleep and depression suggests that sleep sufficiency in people with depression should be assessed and symptoms of depression should be monitored among those with a sleep disorder.

5. Risk of infections

Yes, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to fall sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover from infections.7

During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines (some of which help promote sleep). Certain cytokines increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress.

Lack of sleep may decrease the production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting proteins called antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.

After reading this, you are probably wondering about how much sleep do you need to strengthen your immune system? The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is 7 to 8 hours of good sleep every night. Teenagers need 9 to 10 hours of sleep & school-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.

Sleep Effects on Life Expectancy

Considering the many potential adverse health effects of lack of sleep, it is not surprising that poor sleep is associated with lower life expectancy. Data from three large studies reveal that sleeping five hours or less per night increased mortality risk from all causes by roughly 15%.

Of course, just as sleep problems can affect disease risk, several diseases and disorders can also affect the amount of sleep we get. Most people do not mention their sleeping problems to their doctors, and most doctors do not necessarily ask about them. This widespread lack of awareness of the impact of sleep problems can have serious and costly public health consequences.

How to Sleep Better Tonight

good practices for better sleep    
 

The optimal sleep time for good health is around 7 to 8 hours per day for an average adult. It varies according to your age. If you are not currently getting the sleep you need, there are few steps you can take to clock more Zzz's:

  • Set a consistent time to sleep and wake up (even during weekends).
  • Avoid using electronics (e.g., phone, laptop) before bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
  • Don't eat or drink alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly.

Conclusion

After decades of research, it has been established that disturbed sleep can have long-term health consequences like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc. Some tips that can help with good sleep quality are reducing stress, a balanced diet, exercising, and so on. It is important that you get optimal sleep for health and productivity.

Adequate sleep is vital for good health & unfortunately, not many people relate to this feeling. Amidst the growing workload and late-night culture, the importance of proper sleep is often side-lined. This issue is much relevant in the current pandemic when people are working from home. The benefits of good sleep are well established. Good sleep ought to be a priority in every person's life.

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Dr. Lozynska Liudmyla Yaroslavivna

She graduated from Lviv National Medical University. She has a specialization in psychiatry and psychotherapy. She have published scientific articles: “Anemia of Pregnant Women”; “Urinary Tract Infections”.

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