Sleep is as important to our overall health as eating healthy and exercising.  Unfortunately, we often overlook the basic need for sleep and focus on other habits or treatments, sometime even daily medication to manage our health.  Here are 4 ways that the quantity and quality of sleep awe get is associated with our health.

Sleep reduces risk of heart disease and stroke.

Our heart health is linked to getting sufficient uninterrupted sleep.  A review of 15 studies found that people who don’t get enough sleep are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7–8 hours per night.  But it’s not just quantity of sleep, it’s also quality.    Cardiovascular health worsens with sleep apnea.  Interrupted sleep as a result from pauses in breathing (apnea) results in a 50% likelihood of having high blood pressure and 2-4x higher risk to have atrial fibrillation.

Sleep affects glucose metabolism and reduces risk of diabetes.

Our bodies need sleep in order to maintain proper hormone and insulin levels.  Sleep deprivation, even from periodic arousals such as sleep apnea, causes glucose tolerance that results in insulin resistance.   Those sleeping less than 6 hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sleep Improves Immunity

Sleep is essential to our immune system’s ability to fight disease. One study found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.  Learn more about the measurable components of the immune system (Cytokines and T cell activation) that are directly linked to sleep.

Poor Sleep linked to inflammation

While the exact relationship between sleep and inflammatory condition is not understood, research has shown poor sleep increases levels of inflammatory cytokines and occurrence of inflammatory diseases.  For example, disrupted sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract in disorders known as inflammatory bowel syndrome.

Don’t overlook your sleep!