I was talking with a friend recently who is worried that her teenager is not getting enough sleep. She stays up late at night and then is tired and irritable in the morning—sound familiar? While the fatigue and irritability are troublesome, this particular teenager is also frequently sick or feeling sluggish which results in poor attendance at school, slipping grades and lots of arguments at home. This situation is, unfortunately, far too common and not a good cycle to be in.
In a recent study, researchers took 15 healthy men and put them through a sleep study to determine the positive and negative impact of sleep on the body. The men were asked to get eight hours of sleep each night for a week straight and then kept away for 29 hours while researchers examined the side effects of sleep deprivation. According to the study, “after one to two days of no sleep, the body decreases its ability to properly metabolize glucose, the immune system stops working as well and the body's internal temperature begins to sink.”
Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine researchers are adding to the rising evidence that sleep has a direct benefit to our health and that a consistent lack of sleep has can have a long term negative impact on our health. For example, Harvard’s sleep studies have found the following medical conditions to be influenced by the amount of sleep we get: obesity, mood disorders, alcoholism, immune function, diabetes, heart disease and life expectancy.
In addition to these health issues, a lack of sleep or sleep disorders have been linked to children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, which is a condition that makes it difficult for children (and adults) to sit still, concentrate and focus for long periods of time. According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is evidence to suggest that getting more sleep could help children with this condition.
No matter what stage of life you are in, the research shows that getting enough sleep helps our mood, immune system, heart and overall health so make sleep a priority, not an afterthought.
What impact has your sleep patterns had on your health? Tell us in comments.