What Your Sleep Habits Says About Your Health

Remember when you could sleep for 8-9 hours straight? According to experts this is the amount needed, on average, to keep our minds alert and our bodies healthy – but many people aren’t getting enough.

According to a 2014 International Bedroom Poll, half the population in the United States sleeps less than seven hours during the week. To make amends, many of us resort to catching up when circumstances allow. But experts say a frequent desire to nap could be a sign of a health problem.

“This catch-up can have its own impact on your body and can be a sign of an underlying health problem,” says Charles Czeisler, chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston.

Dr. Czeisler also warns about sleeping late during the weekend. He calls it “sleep binging,” and says it’s a break from consistency that leads to further disruption of our sleep cycles. “It’s a form of sleep bulimia,” he says.

Here are some of the effects of sleep deprivation:

So should you take naps at all?

The answer is “yes” says Dr. Czeisler. “It would be better not to get sleep deprived in the first place. However, once you are there, it is important to get as much sleep as possible as quickly as possible. That is where naps can help a lot,” he added.

But the desire to nap every day, despite having had a good night’s sleep, could be a sign of something more serious.

“Habitual daytime naps are more likely to be indicative of sleep deficiency, chronic … disruption, or a disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea, depression or cancer,” says Czeilser.

A recent study conducted by Professor Francesco Cappuccio and his team at the University of Warwick, in the UK, has shown direct links between lack of sleep, or shift work, and a range of conditions including weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and even the common cold. But little is known about the impact of excessive sleep — rather than simply lazing in bed.

“Value your sleep,” says Cappuccio. “It’s worth paying attention to the hours you spend sleeping, and in bed, as a means of monitoring and maintaining your health and wellbeing.”


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