A Good Night's Sleep
Who hasn't felt cranky, unfocused, and loopy after a bad night's sleep? Three-quarters of adults have "sleep difficulties" and more than half "often wake up not feeling refreshed," according to a recent national poll. But the damage from sleep deprivation is even worse than you may think. More studies are finding that too little sleep can lead to a wide variety of potentially life-threatening conditions. Among them:
Obesity. Women who reported getting five hours of sleep per night were nearly twice as likely to be obese as women who regularly slept about seven hours; those who got four hours were three times more likely to be obese, according to a 2005 study of more than 2,500 women under age 49. Sleep restriction increases your appetite by lowering your levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger, and raising your levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates it.
High blood pressure. People under age 60 who sleep five or fewer hours a night are twice as likely to develop hypertension as those who log seven to eight hours, according to a 2006 study of almost 5,000 men and women. Not sleeping enough strains the cardiovascular system and "resets" it to operate around the clock at an elevated pressure.
Diabetes. Studies have found an association between lack of sleep and a risk for diabetes as well as a 45 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 15 percent increased risk of death from all causes.
Women need to be especially concerned since they're much likelier than men to have sleep problems. The reason, says a recent National Sleep Foundation survey: hormonal disruptions (see "Are Your Hormones to Blame?") and other factors, such as depression, that disproportionately affect women.
On top of that, women are more likely to ignore sleep needs. "Many women are so busy caring for their families while holding down jobs that they don't make rest a high priority," says Meir Kryger, MD, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and author of A Woman's Guide to Sleep Disorders. Even women who don't suffer from sleep disturbances may steal their only "me" time from hours when they should be snoozing.