Sleep today for a better tomorrow

Go to work. Come home. Run the kids around. Make dinner. Take care of chores. Catch up on your favorite shows. Get some exercise. And oh, don’t forget to get some sleep, too. 

If you’re like most people, sleep is the last thing on your to-do list. People even make light of how little sleep they get, saying things like “sleep is for the weak” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

But while many people put sleep on the backburner, it may actually be the most important part of your day.

Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but many are not getting it. One-third of adults in the U.S. get insufficient sleep, or less than seven hours every night. 

“When you get insufficient sleep, you start to create a sleep debt,” said Michael C. Marino, D.O., medical director of Geisinger Sleep Labs. “That sleep debt can leave you feeling drowsy and stressed, but it can also lead to chronic conditions like heart disease. It’s important to make sleep a priority and get more than seven hours every night.”

Here are some of the ways that a lack of sleep could affect you.

Memory problems
“One of the first things affected by a lack of sleep is your mind,” said Dr. Marino. “When you don’t get enough sleep, it becomes harder to focus, which can have a significant impact on your memory throughout the day.”

As you sleep, your brain takes time to file and catalog all of your memories from the day. This is how long-term memories are formed. But if you don’t get enough sleep, you may find it difficult to remember things the next day, and it may be even more difficult to form long-term memories. 

Studies show that people who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation also tend to have higher levels of two proteins that precede Alzheimer’s disease. Research hasn’t shown that lack of sleep can cause Alzheimer’s, but it can increase your risk in the long term. 

Heart disease
Your heart works hard to keep you going throughout the day. And when you sleep, your heart gets a chance to rest and relax, too.

But when you’re sleep deprived, you are also straining your heart, which can lead to heart disease.

“A lack of sleep causes a chain reaction in the body,” said Dr. Marino. “With less sleep, your body will release stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol increases your blood pressure, which puts a strain on your heart. This increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and heart failure.” 

Weight gain and obesity

“When we don’t get enough sleep, it affects our metabolism,” said Dr. Marino. “People who don’t get enough sleep tend to have an increased appetite—likely because their bodies need more energy to stay awake. This can lead to weight gain.”

Along with the increase in appetite, people also tend to crave unhealthy foods when they’re sleep-deprived. This can increase your risk of obesity, which can, in turn, cause sleep apnea and further decreased quality of sleep. 

Along with the risk of obesity, lack of sleep can increase your risk of diabetes.

Studies show that your amount of sleep can impact how sensitive your body is to insulin. One study showed that people were one-fourth less sensitive to insulin after a single night of four hours of sleep. 

If you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, your body can become more resistant to insulin, which can lead to diabetes. 

If you find getting sleep is difficult, talk to your doctor. They may prescribe medications to help you sleep or recommend a sleep study to diagnose the cause of your poor sleep. 

Dr. Michael Marino, DO, is a sleep medicine specialist in Bloomsburg. To schedule an appointment, call 800-275-6401.
Ill woman sleeps while holding a thermometer