How Insufficient Sleep Can Affect Your Health

A good night’s rest may be elusive at times, but the benefits of adequate sleep can go far beyond feeling rested. Insufficient sleep has been linked to both the development and management of a number of chronic diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)1 We’re breaking down the importance of habits that encourage good sleep – also known as sleep hygiene – and how sleep deprivation could affect the risk and management of chronic illnesses.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene refers to healthy habits that can improve sleep quality and duration, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).2 For most adults, the recommended amount of sleep is 7 to 8 hours each night, though, according to the CDC – one third of adults in the U.S. report that they usually get less.3, 4

How Does Poor Sleep Affect Your Health?

You may be familiar with the immediate effects of inadequate sleep like drowsiness, irritability, and attention problems – but long-term lack of sleep can affect how your body functions.5 Continuing lack of sleep can contribute to the following chronic conditions:

  • Obesity: research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that excess body weight and obesity are linked with not getting enough sleep across age groups, including in children.5
  • Type 2 diabetes: quality of sleep and sleep duration are associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The CDC reports that these components of sleep health have emerged as predictors of Hemoglobin A1c, an important marker of blood sugar control. Optimizing sleep duration and quality could help improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes management.1
  • Heart disease: people with sleep apnea (a condition in which a person stops breathing while sleeping) could be at increased risk for heart conditions including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, and irregular heartbeats.1 According to the NIH, research also indicates that lack of sleep increases blood pressure levels in people who already have hypertension – a leading risk factor for heart disease.5
  • Mood disorders: long-term sleep problems have been linked to anxiety, mental distress, and depression. The CDC notes that while sleep disturbance is an important symptom of depression, the relationship between sleep and depression is complex.5,1

Tips for Improving Sleep

What does good sleep hygiene look like? Consider the following tips to support sleep health:6

  • Build a good sleep environment: keep your bedroom quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature. Additionally, try removing distracting electronics (like TVs and smart phones) to encourage better sleep.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule: be consistent with your bedtime and the time you wake up each day – even on the weekends.
  • Watch what you eat (and drink): skip the large meals, caffeine, and alcohol too close to bedtime.
  • Get moving: exercise during the day can help you fall asleep more easily in the evening.

While healthy habits can encourage better sleep, people with sleep disorders – like sleep apnea or insomnia – may experience persistent difficulties. Visit the Sleep Foundation to learn more about common sleep disorders.

Rest Easy and Check In on Your Health

Getting sufficient sleep is important to overall health, but it is just one piece to the puzzle. If you have questions about sleep disturbances, or are concerned about your risk for chronic disease, consult your healthcare provider for more information – they may recommend diagnostic testing to get a better picture of your health.

BioReference® is pleased to offer a number of tests that can supply you and your healthcare provider with essential answers about your health to help prevent chronic disease, and inform disease management. For those with diabetes, blood testing with BioReference – like blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, estimated average glucose (eAG) tests, and more – can help diagnose and monitor diabetes. When it comes to heart disease, our comprehensive Heart Health Panel offers a complete picture of cardiovascular risk.