How Sleep Can Save Your Life

Updated: May 6, 2021

You’re exercising daily. You’re reading all your labels. You’ve fine tuned your diet. You’re even doing cardio! However, you’re just not meeting your weight loss goals. Or maybe you’ve just plateaued with your bodybuilding and performance goals. Did you know that one of the most important and often overlooked reasons you are not meeting your goals is for one simple reason – inadequate sleep.  

“Can you please tell me about about your sleep?” is one the most critical questions I ask my patients that is sometimes overlooked by medical professionals.

According to the CDC and National Sleep Foundation, over 35% of Americans don’t get the recommended minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night, and that number is only getting higher. Sleep deprivation actually costs the US $411 billion annually! What’s even more important is the detrimental side effects (some irreversible) inadequate sleep can have on your overall health.

“Sleep, like diet and physical activity, is a health behavior we engage in every day,” said Nour Makarem, an associate research scientist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York via the American Heart Association. “Increasingly, it is linked to not only the risk of heart disease but also to the risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease.

There is also a significant overlap of the negative effects stress and inadequate sleep inflict on your body.

Not only because inadequate sleep inevitably leads to stress but both wreak havoc on your hormone production (growth hormone, cortisol, sex hormones, insulin, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine.. to name a few).

Two hormones in the body, leptin and ghrelin, control feelings of hunger and satiety, or fullness. The levels of these hormones are affected by sleep deprivation which will increase risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Below are some effects of inadequate sleep:

Brain: lack of concentration, memory impairment, chronic fatigue, mood swings, ADHD, anxiety/panic attacks, depression, increased risk of substance abuse/alcoholism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Study: Lack of sleep in middle age may increase dementia risk

Heart: increased heart rate and blood pressure increasing risk of stroke and also heart attack (#1 killer in America), arrhythmia.

Immunity: suppressed immunity leading to illness.

Hormones: increased cortisol, insulin, norepinephrine increasing risk of diabetes/heart disease & decreased sex hormone production leading to reduced fertility and sex drive. 

Read above for other hormones.

Skin: dry skin, acne, delayed tissue repair.

As you can see, inadequate sleep plays a huge negative toll on your overall health. Next week, we will explore the latest medical recommendations for a healthy sleep hygiene. Make sure not to “sleep” on our next blog lions! 

About Dr. Adam Rajoulh, MD

Board Certified Family Medicine Hospitalist Physician