The Relationship Between Sleep and Chronic Illness

6 mins read

For a state of such inactivity, sleep is actually one of the most important “activities” that you can undertake for long-term health and productivity. Indeed; one might argue that proper sleep (for the recommended amount of time) is the single most important thing that you can do in order to maximize your functionality.

Sound sleep is important for a healthy life

Many studies have shown that sleep can function as both a preventive measure, and a bit of a cure-all for all manner of ailments.The preponderance of research on the matter stems from trials on sleep deprivation – to see the effects, of course – and two types of epidemiological studies. In the following, we’ll touch on a few of the connections between chronic illnesses and lack of sleep.

Lack of Sleep and Obesity

Quite a few studies have shown a distinct correlation between weight gain (to the point of obesity) and a chronic lack of insufficient sleep. Doctors recommend between at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night; if you consistently get fewer than 6 hours, then you may tend to have a higher body-mass-index (BMI).

When lack of sleep is coupled with overeating and a daily lack of exercise, the correlation to obesity becomes very strong. Think of it this way: if you’re not sleeping enough hours, then you will tend to eat more during your increased waking hours. In fact, if you are exercising regularly, then exercise actually promotes sleep – which means lack of sleep is correlated with a lack of exercise in many cases.

Now let’s get to the physiological realities: when you are asleep, your body performs a spate of crucial activities. Among these are the suppression of the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as excess production of insulin. As you may know, excessive production of insulin can lead to weight gain and, in extreme cases, diabetes. Additionally, when you’re asleep, your body produces ghrelin, which is a biochemical that actually makes you hungrier. The craving for food that emerges from this is usually satiated by simple carbs, because of their ability to deliver fast energy. Unfortunately, these types of carbs also deliver a wallop in terms of calories. As you can see, this has the potential to lead to excessive eating during your waking hours, and the weight gain that comes with this.

With all this, one of the chief things that you can do to promote sleep is to fashion the proper environment for it. That means shutting off all electronic distractions 30 minutes before bed, for example. Making sure that you have a bed that is comfortable to sleep in is also very important; as such, do not hesitate to invest in a new mattress. This is for both your comfort and your health.

Sleep and Cardiovascular Health

Another correlation between sleep and chronic illnesses may not be so apparent at first glance; however the research literature is clear on the matter: increases in blood pressure often go hand-in-hand with inadequate sleep. In the case of women in one study, too little sleep suggests an increase in heart disease, and too much sleep, the same – with the boundaries being six and nine hours.

In fact, there is some evidence that there’s a strong correlation between chronic poor sleep and stroke. This is preceded by hypertension, which can begin to manifest after only a few nights of sub-six-hour sleep. The positive news is that when the associated sleep apnea is treated, your blood pressure shrinks back down to healthy levels – which is why it’s so important to invest in the things necessary to promote proper sleep.

Poor Sleep is Linked to Depression

This is one of the more complicated links; however, multiple studies show a strong correlation – via multiple steps – between poor sleep, and proneness to depressive states. The pathway to mood disorders appears to be sleep apnea; it is not merely a simple mood disorder that affects you if you suffer from chronic sleeplessness. You may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts in extreme cases, or constant depressions in serious, though less extreme, cases. Anxiety is a common issue here, as is mental exhaustion.

There’s promise on this front, however: when sleep apnea is successfully treated, the symptoms diminish or cease altogether.

Sleep and the Function It Plays for Your Immune System

It has been known since antiquity that there exists a positive correlation between sleep and health. In fact, when you are starting to get sick – as in, symptomatic – your body will produce immune system antibodies; many of these antibodies additionally induce fatigue. It turns out that you heal a lot faster when you’re asleep than you do when you’re awake. Ultimately, sleep is as essential to your life as anything you do in your waking moments, and a recognition of this will improve your life dramatically.

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