You know how you feel after a solid night’s sleep? No, we’re not talking about how you feel after a just-OK night of sleep. We’re talking about those nights when you crash hard, don’t wake up one single time, and wake up feeling ready to take on the world: You’re refreshed, you’re insanely happy, and you’re powerful.
Ah, yes … those are the nights. You wake up feeling that way because sleep facilitates all sorts of amazing processes in your body. You wake up feeling amazing because your brain and body have actually had a chance to rest and recover — something that far too many Americans miss out on far too often.
On the flip side, when you don’t get enough quality sleep, you wake up feeling quite the opposite: moody, achy, fatigued, and not really motivated to do much of anything. Those temporary effects of sleep deprivation aren’t the only things you need to worry about. Lack of sleep is associated with several chronic health conditions, and here are four that might surprise you.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) involves damage to the major blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your heart. This chronic disease develops when plaque starts to form in your coronary arteries, which causes them to narrow and limits the supply of blood to your heart. If CAD gets bad enough, it can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, or a heart attack.
So how does sleep relate to your arteries? Well, sleep apnea is a major risk factor for CAD, likely because fragmented sleep can lead to low levels of oxygen in your body (hypoxia), contribute to inflammation, and lead to intrathoracic pressure swings (pressure fluctuations inside your heart). All of those physical happenings can cause changes to your entire circulatory system, particularly your arteries.
Like CAD, high blood pressure (hypertension) is a cardiovascular disease that affects your circulatory system. Every time your heart beats, it pumps blood through your arteries. When your heart relaxes, blood comes back through your veins. When that pressure becomes too high, it’s referred to as high blood pressure. This condition causes your heart to work harder, which can eventually lead to:
Some research suggests that lack of sleep is a risk factor for temporary high blood pressure, and that people who sleep less than five or six hours per night have an increased risk of developing hypertension or worsening hypertension that already exists. And difficulty falling asleep has been related to high blood pressure.
Sleep deprivation, as you might have concluded, leads to multiple adverse effects on your body. One of the most damaging is perhaps weight gain, because excess body weight is associated with an unfortunate slew of health complications, including (but not limited to):
The relationship between inadequate sleep and weight gain is an incredibly complex one, but the main things you should know are:
Lack of sleep seems to affect diabetes both directly and indirectly. In the direct sense, sleep deprivation causes fluctuations in hormone levels, including insulin — the resistance to which is the main driver of diabetes. Poor sleep changes how your body produces and uses this hormone, which can have dire consequences for your blood sugar.
Indirectly, lack of sleep contributes to the risk of diabetes because poor sleep leads to weight gain and poor lifestyle choices (like not exercising and eating too much sugar), which drive the development of diabetes.
The bottom line? Do everything you can to catch enough ZZZs every night. And remember, it’s not necessarily the hours spent in bed that matter — it’s the quality of those hours.
If you think you may be experiencing fragmented sleep due to sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, get in touch with us Chase Dental SleepCare right away. Call one of our New York locations or contact us using our online form. We have offices on Long Island and in Manhattan and Queens.