As science reveals more and more information about health, many of us are finding ourselves more mindful about our overall wellness. We are more careful about our dietary intake – opting for organic and whole foods when we can- and we are motivated to incorporate physical activity into our daily routines. What many individuals seem to be failing to take into account is the importance sleep plays in a healthy lifestyle.
The recent findings of a study put out by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, stating that we should at least get 7 hours of sleep per night, probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many. Although many of us are aware we should get our rest, the Center for Disease Control has reported that not getting enough sleep is becoming a public health epidemic, with most Americans barely reaching the minimum requirement our bodies need each night.
Perhaps the lack of attention to proper rest is rooted in the misunderstanding of how sleep affects our health. A growing body of research is revealing that getting less sleep than you need each night could have serious effects on your health. We are all familiar with the irritability, grogginess, and lack of mental alertness that follows a poor night’s rest, but what we may not know is that these tolerable side effects can eventually lead to more serious side effects, such heart disease, obesity, and stroke, among other diseases.
The panel at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine looked at studies that reported relationships between the hours of sleep individuals reported getting and their overall health over extended periods of time, as well as the findings of lab controlled sleep studies. Findings revealed a connection between inadequate sleep leading to obesity and raised blood pressure, which both contribute to poor heart health.
Interestingly, the study also found that poor sleep might be just as detrimental as not getting enough sleep. Sufferers of Sleep Apnea and insomnia were especially at risk, according to Nathaniel F. Watson, President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The condition stops breathing intermittently throughout the night, depriving the body of oxygen, which can cause irregular heartbeat, increase blood pressure, and make blood stickier, increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke.
This study underscores the importance of deep and restorative sleep as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Watson added, “Some people view sleep as an obstruction to success, and we would rather have people view it as a tool for success. We want people to prioritize their sleep and understand that it is as important to their overall health as diet and exercise.”