By Maria Masters
Logging too little sleep might be a lot more dangerous than we suspected. In the past, we’ve reported that a lack of shut-eye can expand your waistline and dull your reaction times, but now, a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that restless nights can lead to far more serious problems. When a group of researchers tracked nearly 18,000 people for almost 20 years, they found a number of startling statistics, including:
Danger #1: Diabetes
The finding: Men who sleep restlessly are 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who rest easier.
The reason: The study authors note that the deep, restorative kind of sleep—called slow-wave sleep—is important for regulating blood sugar levels. (Nighttime Angelina Jolie fantasies = healthy blood sugar.) For more information about how you can get this quality R R, read Sleep Like a Baby. For more tips on how to stave off the disease, visit our Diabetes Spotlight.
Danger #2: Death (by all causes)
The finding: Younger men who frequently wake up more than three times in the middle of the night are twice as likely to die an earlier death than those who sleep until morning. (The causes included cancer and cardiovascular disease, among others.)
The reason: Logging too little sleep has been linked in the past with obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. According to the authors, these conditions could set the stage for more serious health problems down the road, particularly heart disease—the main killer in the study.
Danger #3: Suicide
The finding: People who typically wake up more than three times in the middle of the night are 5 times more likely to die of suicide than those who sleep until morning.
The reason: This was perhaps the most surprising finding in the study, and the researchers haven’t nailed down a definitive link between taking your own life and too little sleep. One likely reason is that a lack of shut-eye is possibly linked to depression, the scientists say. However, it’s not clear if the blues are keeping people awake at night or vice versa.
One thing is clear, however: A lack of sleep can ruin just about all areas of your health and life. But logging in 8 hours a night is easier said than done; there are plenty of things that stand against you and a good night’s sleep.