Why lack of sleep is bad for your health

Living in a 24/7 world means most of us a constantly on the go and this is having a huge impact on the amount of sleep we are getting. 

The Centre for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 3 Americans get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep each night.  Most of us have experienced the effects of sleep deprivation at one time or another whether it is feeling irritable and tired or lack of focus and concentration.  However, the long term cost of chronic sleep deprivation is much more serious.  Not only can you be more prone to motor vehicle crashes and mistakes at work,  but you could be putting your health at serious risk. 

As we learn more about the importance of sleep, researchers have found that poor sleep puts us at risk of serious medical conditions including diabetes, obesity, heart disease as well as shortening life expectancy. 


How much sleep do we need? 

The amount of sleep we need changes with age.  Most adults need around 7-8hours of sleep every night, but some need more and some need less. 

Although the amount of sleep you get each day is important, other aspects of your sleep also contribute to your health and well-being. Good sleep quality is also essential. Signs of poor sleep quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders (such as snoring or gasping for air). Improving sleep quality may be helped by better sleep habits or being diagnosed and treated for any sleep disorder you may have.


Age Group

Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day


0–3 months

14–17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)1

No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)2


4–12 months

12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2


1–2 years

11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2


3–5 years

10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2

School Age

6–12 years

9–12 hours per 24 hours2


13–18 years

8–10 hours per 24 hours2


18–60 years

7 or more hours per night3

61–64 years

7–9 hours1

65 years and older

7–8 hours1


How can good sleep habits have benefits to overall health?

Here’s our top reasons as to why we need a goodnights’ sleep. 


Sleep boosts Immunity 

If you seem to catch every cold and flu that's going around, your bedtime could be to blame. Prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system, so you're less able to fend off bugs.


Sleep can help you stay slim

Sleeping less may mean you put on weight! Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours a day tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of becoming obese than those who get 7 hours of shut eye.  scientists believe that it may be because sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).


Sleep improves mental wellbeing

Given that a single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody the following day, it's not surprising that chronic sleep debt may lead to long-term mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

When people with anxiety or depression were surveyed to calculate their sleeping habits, it turned out that most of them slept for less than 6 hours a night.


Sleep prevents diabetes

Studies have suggested that people who usually sleep less than 5 hours a night have an increased risk of developing diabetes.

It seems that missing out on deep sleep may lead to type 2 diabetes by changing the way the body processes glucose, which the body uses for energy.


Sleep increases sex drive

Men and women who don't get enough quality sleep have lower libidos and less of an interest in sex, research suggests.

Men who suffer from sleep apnoea – a disorder in which breathing difficulties lead to interrupted sleep – also tend to have lower testosterone levels, which can lower libido.


Sleep wards off heart disease

Long-standing sleep deprivation seems to be associated with increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation, which may put extra strain on your heart.


Sleep increases fertility

Difficulty conceiving a baby has been claimed as one of the effects of sleep deprivation, in both men and women. Apparently, regular sleep disruptions can cause trouble conceiving by reducing the secretion of reproductive hormones.


How to catch up on lost sleep

If you don't get enough sleep, there's only one way to compensate – getting more sleep.

It won't happen with a single early night. If you've had months of restricted sleep, you'll have built up a significant sleep debt, so expect recovery to take several weeks.


Starting on a weekend, try to add on an extra hour or 2 of sleep a night. The way to do this is to go to bed when you're tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning (no alarm clocks allowed!).


Expect to sleep for upwards of 10 hours a night at first. After a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level.


If none of the usual sleep hygiene tricks are working then a natural melatonin based sleep aid such as OneSecond Supplements Daily Sleep Aid can help. It provides you with a low dose of melatonin to ease you into sleep faster, and it won’t leave you groggy come morning.


Don't rely on caffeine or energy drinks as a short-term pick-me-up. They may boost your energy and concentration temporarily, but can disrupt your sleep patterns even further in the long term.


Getting enough sleep is not a luxury—it is something people need for good health. Sleep disorders can also increase a person’s risk of health problems. However, these disorders can be diagnosed and treated, bringing relief to those who suffer from them.  If you have concerns that you may not be getting enough sleep on a regular basis, speak to your health provider for more advice.

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