Are you getting sufficient shut-eye, or short-changing yourself on sleep?

As the mother of a newborn, it’s a topic with which I am very familiar.  

Experts suggest up to eight hours of sleep is required for optimal function. Insufficient sleep can compromise your health and potentially shorten your life. From birth to the grave, sleep deprivation can significantly affect memory, learning, productivity, creativity and emotional stability, as well as physical health.

Sleep specialists from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic argue that many of the body’s internal systems are compromised by inadequate sleep: from the heart, lungs and kidneys; appetite, metabolism and weight management; immune function and disease resistance; pain sensitivity and reaction time; to mood and brain function.

Insufficient sleep is also a risk factor for depression and substance abuse, as well as weight gain.

Inadequate sleep compromises the body’s ability to process glucose, which may lead to Type 2 diabetes. The risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke are also higher in those who sleep less than six hours a night.

The risk of developing cancer may be higher among those getting inadequate shut-eye. A Japanese study of almost 24,000 women aged 40-to-79 found those who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to develop breast cancer than women who sleep for longer periods of time.  This increased risk may be due to the diminished secretion of the sleep hormone, melatonin.

Inadequate sleep can also compromise a child’s growth. Growth hormone released during sleep stimulates growth in children, boosts muscle mass and repairs damaged cells and tissues in both children and adults.

If you’re getting insufficient sleep, no doubt you’re having more trouble than usual paying attention and making everyday decisions, or perhaps even taking unnecessary risks.

Sleep is critical to our overall health and wellbeing.

If you’re getting insufficient sleep for reasons other than caring for a beautiful but demanding newborn, speak to your doctor about the length and quality of your sleep.

Kirsten Bruce