Hectic lifestyles and a lack of sleep have been linked this week to increased eating, a range of diseases, DNA changes and heart disease. Those sleeping less than 6 hours a night have been found to be 12% more likely to die prematurely according to a combination of new studies.
Research from the University of Warwick has found that failing to get enough sleep can have deadly consequences, not just increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, but encouraging obesity too.
Modern middle age has created a “perfect storm” for sleep deprivation, said the scientists. A combination of having children later in life, late night use of smart phones and tablets, hectic work pressures, increased alcohol consumption at home and late night eating all contribute to either lack of sleep or lack of good quality sleep.
Sleep deprivation upsets our hormonal balance, producing more cortisol, our “stress” hormone and also upsets the balance of the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate appetite and help us to know when we have eaten enough. A University of Surrey study meanwhile has found that lack of sleep can change 700 genes, explaining the wide ranging health consequences of sleep deprivation.
In an effort to help, the UK government has come up with great tips for better sleep:
- Smoking cessation
- Reduction in alchohol
- Increasing exercise
- Improving diet
- Reducing stress
- Improving sleep
- Having regular health checks for any sign of illness
Other great tips for better sleep are:
- Keeping the room cool – around 18 degrees is best
- Don’t nap during the day
- Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom
- Have an internet ban in place an hour before bed
- Keep pets off the bed (except for morning snuggles)
- Do something quiet when you go to bed – reading, thinking about the good things you achieved that day, meditating are all good ideas
- Listen to soothing sounds before bed – iTunes has some good selections, like waves on a beach, rainforest sounds etc. Radio 4 can work a treat too. Amazon have CDs too.
Remember that “catching up on sleep” does not work; once it’s missed, it’s missed.