Sleep, in addition to being one of the happiest and most relaxing things we do to survive, is also one of the most essential aspects. When we close our eyes for those few hours each night, we give our bodies a chance to recharge after all the stresses of the day before. Millions of processes continue while you sleep, helping the brain to optimize itself, while cells work to regenerate and repair tissue that was damaged while we were awake.

When we don’t get enough sleep, and are chronically sleep deprived, none of this has a chance to happen. Not only will we wake up more irritable the next day and have trouble concentrating; the prolonged periods of sleep deprivation can have serious consequences on health. In fact, extensive research has been done on what exactly happens to different parts of the body if we are not getting our eight hours of rest each night.

Diseases that can cause poor sleep

What these studies have found is that lack of sleep can cause a number of serious and life-threatening conditions, ranging from cancer to diabetes to heart problems. So what exactly are the conditions that have been officially linked to poor sleeping habits?

1. Alzheimer’s disease

A 2013 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that lack of sleep can be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease and the impact of the speed of disease progression. The study was conducted on the basis of previous research that found that sleep is necessary for the brain to rid itself of ” brain waste, ” or the accumulation of garbage that can accumulate and cause dementia.

Conducting their study in 70 adults, between the ages of 53 and 91, the researchers found that those who reported poor sleep each night showed a greater amount of beta-amyloid deposition in their brains on PET scans. This compound is known to be a definitive marker for Alzheimer’s disease, leading researchers to conclude that lack of sleep is preventing the brain from disposing of “brain waste” in this way.

2. Obesity and Diabetes

Diabetes has been linked to poor sleep, but a recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago showed how poor sleep can cause obesity and ultimately lead to diabetes . Knowing that levels of fatty acids in the blood can affect the rate of metabolism and insulin’s ability to regulate blood sugar, the researchers examined the effects that little sleep had on fatty acid accumulation.

Examining 19 men’s sleep patterns, the researchers found that those who received just four hours of sleep over the span of three nights had high levels of fatty acids in their blood between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m., an increase of 15 to 30 percent over those who got 8.5 hours of sleep each night. In addition, the researchers found that increased levels of fatty acids caused a greater degree of insulin resistance , all signs that they attribute to pre-diabetes . Those who got more rest, however, did not have the same markers for obesity or pre-diabetes.

3. Cardiovascular disease

The cardiovascular disease has been linked to lack of sleep for some time, but a recent study presented at EuroHeartCare , the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology found more evidence of a strong correlation. After following 657 Russian men between the ages of 25 and 64 for 14 years, the researchers found that nearly two-thirds of those who experienced a heart attack also had a sleep disorder .

What’s more, men who complained of sleep disorders were also found to have a 2.6 times higher risk of heart attack , a heart attack that occurs when the heart muscle dies, and a 1.5 to four times higher risk. increased risk of stroke .

4. Risk of suicide

It may be shocking, but recent research in 2014 found a link between increased incidence of suicide in adults and poor sleep , regardless of past history with depression. During a 10-year study conducted by researchers at Stanford Medical University, 420 participants who are in middle to late adulthood were examined. Out of this group, 20 participants were found to suffer from poor sleep and ended up committing suicide. Because of this, the researchers concluded that those who consistently experienced difficulty sleeping were 1.4 times more likely to commit suicide.

Those who were most vulnerable to this effect of poor sleep, the researchers say, were white men 85 and older. The study ultimately attributed this increased suicide rate to sleep deprivation associated with health problems and stress that increases with age.

5. Ulcerative colitis

The ulcerative colitis an inflammatory bowel disease marked by ulcers in the lining of the digestive tract, and Crohn’s disease . it can be a product of sleep deprivation, and excess sleep, says a 2014 study. Massachusetts General Hospital researchers found that the right amount of sleep is necessary to slow down inflammatory responses within the digestive system which often lead to either of these two diseases.

After studying women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study (NHS) I since 1976 and the NHS II since 1989, the researchers found that the risks of ulcerative colitis increased as sleep at night decreased to six hours or less. . Alternatively, the researchers also found that more than nine hours of sleep increased risks as well, suggesting that the threshold for stopping digestive inflammation is a very short gap that requires just the right amount of sleep (and quality of sleep). Although this response was only found in adult women, the greater chances of developing ulcerative colitis during poor sleep existed despite other factors such as age, weight, and habits such as smoking and drinking.

6. Prostate cancer

In a study published in 2013 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention , researchers found an increased incidence and severity of prostate cancer in patients with poor sleep problems. After following 2,425 Icelandic men between the ages of 67 and 96 for three to seven years, the researchers found that the danger of developing prostate cancer increased in 60 percent of the men who had trouble falling asleep.

This number doubled with men who reported having difficulty falling asleep . What’s more, those who experienced sleep problems were also more likely to have later stages of prostate cancer .

The study researchers attribute this link to melatonin, a hormone known to regulate sleep. Higher levels of melatonin have been established to suppress tumor growth, while melatonin levels in those exposed to too much artificial light (a known cause of sleep deprivation) were observed to have more aggressive tumor growth.

Dr. Eric Jackson

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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