Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The importance of a good night’s sleep

Sleep affects how we look, feel and perform on a daily basis and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life. Sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Chronic sleep deprivation significantly affects one’s well-being and people who do not get enough sleep are at greater risk for a number of diseases and health problems. Interestingly, many of us are sleep deprived without knowing it. According to most experts — and despite the claims of such high-powered personalities as Martha Stewart — six hours or less of sleep a night is not enough. (See “How Much Sleep Do We Need” for optimal sleep hours.)

Lack of sleep has consequences that go way beyond just “feeling drowsy.” If you go about your day feeling energetic and alert, you are probably meeting your sleep needs. However, you are probably lacking sleep if you are showing any of the following signs or symptoms:

• Irritability, moodiness
• Inability to cope with stress
• Weight gain
• Fatigue, lethargy
• Social ineptness
• Memory loss
• Inability to concentrate
• Frequent colds and infections
• More errors at work
• Reduced efficiency and productivity
• Accidents
• Impaired judgment
• Reduced coordination and reaction time

Sleep and Chronic Diseases
The cost of insufficient sleep is much greater than people realize. Studies have shown that people who consistently fail to get adequate sleep are at greater risk for chronic disease. Interest in the role of sleep in the development and management of chronic diseases has grown, as these diseases have assumed an increasingly common role in premature death and illness. Notably, insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including:

• Diabetes
• Cardiovascular disease
• Obesity
• Depression

Treating sleep as a priority may be an important step in preventing a number of these chronic medical conditions.
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