sleep and health

7 Surprising Ways that Sleep Affects Your Health (and How to Get More of It)

You can lower your risk of hypertension, weight gain, and more if you get a good night’s sleep.

By Dana Blinder

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Skimping on a little shut-eye can result in more than daytime drowsiness. Research shows that lack of sleep, or disrupted sleep, can have detrimental short- and long-term effects, says Lisa Shives, MD, medical director at Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, IL. Here are seven ways that lack of sleep affects your health, and what you can do to get the 40 winks (probably more) that you need.

1. It bumps up your blood pressure.
Bedtime is supposed to be time to relax, but if you have disrupted sleep or sleep deprivation, that nighttime stress can be just as harmful as any tension during the day. Lack of sleep can raise blood pressure and cause hypertension in adults, according to an issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. “Research has shown stress hormones tend to be elevated in short sleepers or people who are sleep deprived,” says Dr. Shives. This hormonal increase can lead to a temporary rise in blood pressure, which could become more permanent after a period of time.

Do this: Stay out of bed until you’re tired. Dr. Shives warns that lying in bed waiting to fall asleep can lead to sleep anxiety, which in turn makes it harder to doze off. “You should really be sleepy before you get into bed, which means a feeling in your head behind your eyes; not just body fatigue.” She recommends engaging in calm and quiet activity, such as reading or listening to relaxing music, for an hour or two before bedtime. Avoid television and bright lights. If you can’t fall asleep, get out of bed and resume the calm, quiet activity until you’re drowsy.

Published on: June 18, 2009
Updated on: June 14, 2011

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Mandatory midday siesta

There are many studies on sleep habits. As a general rule our ancestors go to bed around 9pm, wake up before dawn and also take a midday nap in order to be more productive at hunting. Perhaps the Spanish has got it right with a mandatory midday siesta.


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