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How Lack of Sleep Can Impact Your Health

In a perfect world, everyone gets as much sleep as they need. They go to bed at a decent hour and wake up feeling revived and refreshed.

It's not exactly a surprise that this isn't a perfect world, and for many busy adults, there just aren't enough hours in the day (or night) to get in a full eight hours of sleep.

Most researchers report that adults need approximately seven to eight hours a day. When you think of what happens to your body when it doesn’t get enough sleep, what probably comes to mind first are things such as fatigue, irritability and headaches. However, not getting the sleep your body deserves can actually lead to a lot more serious health risks.

Heart Disease

A West Virginia University study found that women under the age of 60 who get five or fewer hours of sleep per night have double the risk of heart disease than those who sleep more than seven hours each night. This may be due to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to increased blood pressure, heart rate and blood glucose levels.

Cancer

Researchers have found that sleep-deprived adults are at a much higher risk for certain cancers. A study published in the journal Cancer in 2011 found that individuals who slept fewer than six hours per night were at a nearly 50 percent higher risk of precancerous polyps. Japanese researchers discovered a 62 percent higher risk for breast cancer in women ages 40 to 79 who get fewer than six hours of sleep. On the other hand, the same study discovered a 28 percent lower risk in those who got more than nine hours of sleep per night.

Obesity

Those late-night snack cravings have a legitimate cause: hormones. Two hormones, to be exact, which work together to control appetite. When a person is sleep deprived, the hormone leptin goes down, while another hormone, ghrelin, goes up. Leptin controls appetite, so decreases in this hormone can cause hunger, as can increases in ghrelin, which is produced by fat cells and indicates to the body that it needs more fat calories.

Diabetes

Leptin and ghrelin may have a hand in increasing the risk for this disease as well. In a 10-year sleep study of more than 70,000 women, Harvard researchers found that those who sleep fewer than five hours per night are one-third more likely to develop diabetes.

So the next time you're facing a bout of insomnia or are thinking about staying up an hour later to get some work done or watch that TV show, grab your SleepPhones and go to bed instead! Your body will thank you for it.

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