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Why Not Sleeping Enough Regularly Could Kill You

Why Not Sleeping Enough Regularly Could Kill You


A FEW NIGHTS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION CAN’T KILL ME, RIGHT? WRONG.


Sure, you know that sleep is important. But did you know that not sleeping could kill you? 


According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and also increases the risk of obesity.” [1] 


Sleep deficiency also increases your proclivity to depression, and risk-taking, and increases reactive volatility to stress situations. Your ability to concentrate and learn decreases, along with your emotional and social intelligence. [1]


The American Academy of Sleep Medicine warns that “sleeping less than 7 hours per night on a regular basis is associated with adverse health outcomes, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, and increased risk of death. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is also associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents.”


Perhaps at this point, your eyes and brain have glazed over and you’ve filed away a NOTE TO SELF: SLEEP MORE. 


Yeah, sure, but will you turn off Netflix tonight and get to bed on time? To be honest, are you looking for loopholes in at least 7 hours of sleep every night?


Are you asking yourself….


CAN’T I JUST CATCH UP ON SLEEP ON THE WEEKEND?


Unfortunately, no. You can’t play catch up with sleep, according to both Dr. Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep, and Dr. Won, Director of the Women's Sleep Health program at Yale Medical University.” [2][3]


“If your schedule is shifting back and forth, you’re unlikely to feel refreshed or have good quality sleep,” said Dr. Christine Won. Dr. Won recommends getting up in the morning and going to sleep at the same time every day.


If you’re like me, you’re groaning right now. I do NOT want to get up at 5:30 or 6:30 on the weekend! Weekends are for sleeping in, lovely lie-ins, right?


No, not according to the sleep researchers. I would love it if we could charge the body with extra sleep on the weekends to make up for lost hours during the week, but our bodies don’t function this way. You never recover from lost sleep.


The National Sleep Foundation researchers agree that sleep duration for, “newborns is between 14 and 17 hours, infants between 12 and 15 hours, toddlers between 11 and 14 hours, preschoolers between 10 and 13 hours, and school-aged children between 9 and 11 hours. For teenagers, 8 to 10 hours was considered appropriate, 7 to 9 hours for young adults and adults, and 7 to 8 hours of sleep for older adults.” [6]



HOW DO I SLEEP BETTER?


Sleep research in Jordan of 1,308 university students indicated that increasing physical activity eliminating smoking and the use of media devices before bed will have a positive improvement on falling asleep, sleep quality, and sleep quantity. [5]


Dr. Matthew Walker adds that you should abstain from nicotine, alcohol, and big meals in the evening and avoid intense exercise within 2-3 hours before bedtime. In addition, drink your caffeinated beverages only in the morning hours. [2]


The National Sleep Foundation agrees with Dr. Walker that in order to get a high-quality night of sleep:

  • Get up and go to bed at the same times every day; yes, even on weekends.

  • Use bright lights first thing in the morning or step into direct sunlight to regulate your daily sleep patterns when you get up.

  • Get outside for a daily walk in bright sunshine for at least 30 minutes. Daily exercise is critical for a good night's sleep.

  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, and free of electronics before bed.

  • Have a thirty-minute electronic free relaxing bedtime ritual, like reading, listening to music, meditating, or talking with loved ones.


HOW DO I MAKE MYSELF GET INTO BED ON TIME?


Set an alarm on your phone to go tell you it’s your bedtime. 


Give yourself a reward at the end of each week for getting your 7-9 hours of sleep each and every night, waking and going to bed at the same times, and having a wind-down bedtime ritual. 


Find an accountability friend to tell you, or call you, to tell you it’s time to go to bed. I know that sounds crazy, but hey, some Netflix shows, or your work, could be addicting you to the screen.


Reward yourself for getting up on time in the morning with a special healthy treat.


Give yourself down, leisure time earlier in the day so you can wind down faster at night.


Schedule in meditation time of at least 10 minutes. Meditators have reported being able to get higher-quality sleep.


Try out yoga nidra, in the afternoons after lunch, especially on the weekends, to replenish and restore your body and mind. When you’re more relaxed and rested, it’s easier to fall asleep quickly and sleep better.


Get plenty of exercise for both your body and your brain. Go for a walk, get your workout in, and learn something new so your body is primed to rest deeply.


Sweet dreams! Heather





  1. the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2020. Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency

  2. Walker, M. (2018). Why we sleep. Penguin Books.

  3. Dr. Won is the Director of the Women's Sleep Health program. She is a board-certified sleep specialist who is also trained and certified in Pulmonary and Critical Care medicine. https://medicine.yale.edu/profile/christine_won/?tab=bio

  4. American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. April 2015. https://aasm.org/resources/pdf/pressroom/adult-sleep-duration-consensus.pdf

  5. Albqoor, M.A., Shaheen, A.M. Sleep quality, sleep latency, and sleep duration: a national comparative study of university students in Jordan. Sleep Breath (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11325-020-02188-w

  6. National Sleep Foundation, 2020. Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., Hazen, N., Herman, J., Katz, E. S., Kheirandish-Gozal, L., Neubauer, D. N., O'Donnell, A. E., Ohayon, M., Peever, J., Rawding, R., Sachdeva, R. C., Setters, B., Vitiello, M. V., Ware, J. C., & Adams Hillard, P. J. (2015). National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep health, 1(1), 40–43.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010

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