How are Disease and Sleep Linked?

Poor sleep can be not only a symptom of various diseases but may also be one of the causes. Research has shown that there are several ways that sleep and disease may be linked.

One reason is that our immune systems recharge during sleep. Lack of sleep lowers our defenses against disease. The first half of a night’s sleep is the most important in physical healing and the prevention of illness. The internal timekeepers that we all have orchestrated repair and rebuilding so that it occurs only during certain phases of sleep. If we do not sleep during those important phases the risk of disease increases.

Another reason for the link between sleep and longevity is the immediate effect lack of sleep has on human performance. Missing sleep leads to poor decision making and can affect everything we do: rushing when we should be methodical, forgetting important procedures, loss of attention (such as when driving), not having the energy to exercise, poorer reaction time, higher stress levels, elevated blood pressure, and inability to adapt to change. These things lead to accidents in the short term, and poor health in the long term. It is only necessary to look at our own or other people’s behavior after a single night of poor sleep. Irritable – Fatigued – Scattered – Sound familiar?

Poor sleep can also contribute to obesity. Even a few nights of short sleep reduces our ability to utilize insulin by forty percent. This creates increased stress on our hormone system. There is good news though, quality sleep is an easy and important part of a weight loss program. When sleep is missed, we become hungry for fats and sugars and the body increases fat storage. Good sleep at the right time of night regulates hormone production to increase muscle mass and reduce fat storage. It is easier to maintain a healthy diet if food cravings are in order and quality sleep will do that. Remember to include a sleep plan in any diet.