Health Consequences of Poor Sleep: A Public Health Concern
ByKatarina Meister, ND •April 17, 2023
Getting proper sleep is a determinant of optimal health. In our modern world, this fact has been lost in favor of social, leisure or work-related activities. Back in the day, when the sun went down it became dark and cool, the availability of food and light were limited. In our modern world, we can have whatever light, food and temperature we want at any time of day- which is causing serious health issues.
Often when we think of hormones for sleep, we simply think – melatonin! Yes, melatonin is one of the major sleep hormones. It is the ‘main chronotrope’ or time setters of our biological clock. It is secreted by the pineal gland, and your gut! Melatonin has a variety of benefits outside of promoting a proper circadian rhythm. Yes, melatonin helps to induce drowsiness and lowers your body temperature for sleep. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant with anti-cancer actions. It also regulates leptin and lowers our appetite. This is one way of how our sleep connects back to our metabolic health.
Sleep is also critical for your immune system, fighting off illness, and healing. Have you ever noticed how much you sleep when you are down with a cold or flu? This is the impact of growth hormone, the other hormone secreted when you sleep. Growth hormone is important for exercise recovery, muscle mass, energy, growth and so much more.
Short sleep duration has been shown to increase risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Short sleep duration is also linked to increased inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein, which further increases your risk of heart disease. Short sleep duration can lead to an increase in waist circumference and body fat. A study found that for those sleeping <5hrs a night, were 32% more likely to gain 33lbs over 16 years without changing their diet or lifestyle. This all goes to show that even a healthy diet can’t outrun a disrupted circadian rhythm for optimal metabolic health.
Conventional treatment for insomnia mostly includes pharmaceutical treatment. Hypnotic agents that are often prescribed for insomnia, have only been studied to improve a patients sleep over 3-4 weeks, are funded by pharmaceutical companies and have not been studied for their long-term effects. There is a public health concern for the increasing rate of prescriptions for sedative hypnotics that outnumber the number of sleeplessness complaints and insomnia diagnoses. Non-benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics, such as Ambien or Lunesta, only increase sleep time by less than 12 minutes on average and have potentially serious side effects, including sleep driving, sleep walking and short-term amnesia. Proven nondrug treatments do exist and are without side effects. Despite these facts – prescription sleep aids remain the treatment of choice for most physicians.
If you are interested in natural non-pharmaceutical treatments for your insomnia continue reading here:
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Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.