Dr. Bell's Blog

How Your Sleepless Nights May Be Killing You

Sleep, in particular difficulty sleeping, is a problem I commonly discuss with patients.  Good, quality sleep is vital to your overall health and well-being.  From time to time we all have a bad night of sleep. But when once in a while becomes the norm, the statistics surrounding how many people suffer from a sleep disorder does not paint a pretty picture.  

Here are the latest sleep disorder statistics (according to Statistic Brain)

  • 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from a sleep disorder.
  • 62% of American adults experience a sleep problem a few nights a week.
  • Sleep issues costs U.S. employers $18 Billion per year in lost productivity.
  • Americans get 2 hours less sleep nightly (6.5 hours) than in 1960 (8.5 hours).
  • 9 million Americans use prescription drugs to sleep.

There are many reasons why an increasing number of people are having difficulty sleeping. Regardless of the reason, the consequences are many.  Lets take a look at a few...

Consequences of not getting enough sleep:

Weight Gain:  Yes, not enough sleep can actually make you gain weight.  Lack of sleep causes abnormal regulation of blood glucose and increased inflammation throughout your body, which leads to fat storage.  Studies have shown this happening even after one 24 hour period of sleep deprivation. 

Increased Aging:  Some days we can all feel like we are getting old, but sleep deprivation can actually make you age faster.  Cortisol, the "stress hormone", increases production with lack of sleep.  This causes your skin to lose elasticity from impaired skin collagen production.

Stressed and Unpleasant to be Around: This one may be a bit obvious, but being tired all the time doesn't exactly make you pleasant to be around.  We have all been around this person, always on edge and ready to explode.  Lack of sleep increases anxiety levels, makes you aggressive, and compromises your outlook on life.  

Strategies to improve sleep:

Routine:  Get in the habit as often as possible to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.  This in essence trains your body that these are sleep times.  Once this becomes a habit, you will notice it is easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Watch Your Diet:  Reducing intake of sugary and processed foods has been shown to significantly improve the quality of your sleep.  Be sure and also limit your intake of caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening.

Have Good Sleep Hygiene: Keeping your room dark, not using your cell phone or tablet/computer at least a couple hours prior to bed time, having a warm cup of non-caffeinated tea, and taking a warm bath can all help improve sleep.

Natural Sleep Aides:  As always, consult your doctor prior to trying any of these, but there are many natural sleep aides that can provide improved sleep.  These include melatonin, velerian root, glycine, and a 2:1 magnesium/calcium supplement.

To solve sleep problems you may have to take a good look at a few aspects of your life.  Deep down you may know exactly why it is happening.  Just like taking care of your health in general, it takes time and a constant commitment to get and maintain an extraordinary level of health. No one said it is easy, but it does become easier the more it becomes a habit.

Consistency with your healthy habits is your best friend on the journey to...

LIVE well. BE well.