The HIGH PRICE of Not Getting Enough Sleep

Okay…  I admit it.  I know I’m not getting enough sleep.  Sometimes I jokingly call it “The 444 Curse” – I wake up every morning at 4:44.

I also have read enough newspaper and magazine articles about the horrible health effects of not getting enough sleep.  So I began my research…

Here’s some quick facts:  In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared lack of quality sleep “a public health problem.”  They report that “80 million American adults aren’t getting enough sleep.”

Researchers at the National Institute of Health (NIH) report that “more than 70 million American adults suffer from sleep difficulties.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that of all patient’s health complaints, lack of sleep is number 2.  And just a few short years ago, that complaint wasn’t even in the top 5.

So what’s causing this?  Experts say that the top 3 culprits are the rising obesity rate, the unprecedented number of adults taking anti-depressant medications, and all of our electronic screens emitting a high intensity “Blue Light” which scrambles our circadian rhythms. 

Apparently, this high intensity “Blue Light” strongly emulates sunlight, thus throwing our brains off kilter, making them believe it’s actually still daytime.  Our brains have thousands of years of “pre-programming” to think that we stay awake during daylight, and sleep when it’s dark out. 

Sleep researchers report that on average, we’re using devices emitting “Blue Light” 11 hours a day.  And if you’re like me, you have a TV in your bedroom emitting that same light as we try and fall asleep… 

Brain researchers have a unique way of describing what happens to us if we don’t get enough quality sleep.  They say that sleep is the brain’s overnight “rinse cycle”, and it’s important for our brains to “flush cellular debris generated by metabolic activity.”  In other words, “the brain has to go offline during that process.” 

As many of us have experienced a bad night’s sleep, the following day results in a sluggish and diminished function – kind of like being in a fog.  That effects our memory and our mental acuity.  And as adults, many nights of bad sleep can speed up the development of cognitive impairments. 

Here’s where sleep can really affect our health:  It’s reported that some 40 million Americans have “Sleep Apnea”.  Get this – apparently 25% of all middle-aged men have Apnea, yet the majority of them have never been diagnosed. 

The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine did a study that revealed the high cost.  Those with severe apnea are: 

  • 4 times more likely to have a stroke
  • Twice as likely to develop depression
  • 5 times more likely to die from cancer

Another study found that apnea sufferers

  • Develop Alzheimer’s disease 5 years earlier than those who sleep soundly; and
  • Mildly cognitive impairments come a decade earlier

Okay…  enough of the bad news.  Let’s talk about what we can do to IMPROVE our sleep and prevent apnea and other sleep disorders.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the same things we recommend to prevent other diseases are the same for apnea, such as:

  • Limit your use of “Blue Light” emitting devices to less than 8 hours a day
  • Turn off all “Blue Light” emitting devices at least 2 hours prior to going to bed for the night
  • Get 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week
  • No foods for at least 4 hours prior to going to bed – especially sweets or chocolates
  • No caffeine after 4:00 p.m.
  • No more than 1 cocktail or glass of wine, and no later than 7:00 in the evening
  • Do your best not to think about stressful things when you awake in the middle of the night
  • Maintain a healthy weight and keep your Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 to 24.9

And know this – do your best to get a minimum of 7 solid hours of sleep each night.

Hopefully this will give you some guidance on how truly valuable a consistent good night’s sleep for your health!

Sweet dreams!

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