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How Sleep Affects Your Health

By DuPage Medical Group Sleep Medicine

We all understand how great a few extra hours of sleep can feel. But did you know that sleep can greatly affect your health? Sleeping may seem like a luxury; however, a good night’s sleep every night should be incorporated into your lifestyle. Check out how skipping a few hours of sleep regularly can cause long-term health issues.


Insufficient sleep has been linked to obesity, immune system problems, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Obesity—one study found that people who sleep less than 6 hours a night regularly were more susceptible to weight gain. On the contrary, those who slept 8 or more hours a night had lower body fat. This is because sleep balances out the hormones that make you feel hungry or full. Lack of sleep or quality sleep causes the hormone that makes you feel hungry to increase, causing you to be hungrier and eat more than you need. Sleep is important. Try to get adequate sleep, usually between 6-8 hours each night.

Immune System—the common cold and other infections have been linked to sleep deprivation. Sleeping at least 6-8 quality hours per night can significantly reduce your risk of developing the common cold or other inflammatory infections.

Diabetes—regularly sleeping 5 hours or less per night can significantly increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. Quality sleep allows your body to positively affect blood sugar levels and can even reduce the effects of type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease—even mild reduction in sleep, such as less than 6 hours, can greatly increase your risk for heart attack and heart disease. In addition, obstructive sleep apnea can also increase your risk for hypertension, stroke and irregular heartbeat.

Mentally & Emotionally

Sleep not only helps you function physically, it also affects you emotionally. Quality sleep helps you learn, retain information, focus, make decisions and be creative. If you are sleep deficient, you may have a difficult time making decisions, grasping and retaining new information, controlling your emotions and behavior, or coping with change. In addition, depression, suicide and risk-taking behaviors have been linked to sleep deficiency.

Losing sleep also affects your performance at work and school. After several nights of inadequate sleep—even 1-2 hours each night—your body begins to function as if you haven’t slept in 1-2 days. Get that beauty rest and aim for a solid 6-8 hours or more each night.

Did you know? There is such a thing as microsleep. Microsleep occurs when you fall asleep for brief moments when you are awake. You can’t control microsleep. Have you ever driven somewhere or listened to a lecture but can’t remember part of the trip or the lesson? You probably experienced microsleep. Make sure you’re getting enough rest to keep you healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.

If you find that you are having trouble sleeping, talk with your physician or sleep specialist to see how you can improve your quality of sleep. 

Topics and Subtopics: Sleep

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