Why Don’t You Sleep On It?

Ah, the joys of sleep! For such a wonderful activity, why don’t we spend more time practicing it? It seems that we never get enough sleep, but why worry? Sleep is just a pleasant waste of time, right? Recent research shows that lack of sleep can have profound and long-lasting impacts on our health.

We've all had to work through period of less than adequate sleep. We are familiar with the muscle aches, memory lapses and irritability that ensue. But researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that lack of sleep affected the heart and lungs, appetite and metabolism and immune responses and disease fighting. Even brain function was impaired.

Lack of sleep can also make you fat. Our metabolism is controlled by a complex series of hormones, some of which are thrown off when we don’t get enough sleep.  These hormone changes, couple with the natural ability to eat more while awake, can pack on the pounds.

So how much sleep is enough? Everyone is different, certainly, but research studies have found some basic guidelines. People getting less than six hours of sleep a night (on a prolonged basis) are much more likely to develop heart disease and high blood pressure. The same six hour cut-off seems to increase the risk of breast and colorectal cancers. Sleep less than seven hours a night? You are three times more prone to colds and flu.

Lack of sleep isn't a problem for everyone. In fact, a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey found that the average American adult sleeps 8 hours and 40 minutes a night. Women average 10 minutes of sleep more than men, and the average adult sleeps an additional hour a night on the weekends. Why don't I know any of these average Americans? Eight hours of sleep? That never happens!

Given all the time, energy and money we invest in getting and staying healthy, why can’t we put some of that attention on increasing our sack time? Let me sleep on it, I’ll get back to you.

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