In the early 1900s, the obesity rate in the U.S. was low (in the single digits), diabetes was rare and people slept on average between eight to nine hours a night. Today, two-thirds of the adult population is either obese or overweight, the word diabetes is most often followed by the word, “epidemic,” and we sleep ninety minutes less each night. Could there be a connection? Maybe. Recent studies on sleep have reinforced its vital role in virtually all aspects of our health and wellbeing. It’s not that farfetched to make the claim that poor sleep habits may at least in part be responsible for many of our so-called “lifestyle” induced ailments.
Last fall, a groundbreaking study undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a link between too little sleep — less than six hours a night — and an increased risk for obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and frequent mental distress. Earlier studies have shown that lack of sleep can disrupt normal metabolism, which may cause food cravings, especially for sugary carbs that offer an instant lift, but over time, can pile on the pounds.
There is growing and compelling evidence to suggest that poor sleep may create an environment in the brain that promotes Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. A recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health found that the brain scans of older people who skimped on sleep, or said they were poor sleepers, had an increased build-up of beta amyloid plaque, a protein prevalent in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Why this occurs could possibly be explained by yet another study. Researchers from the University of Rochester found that during sleep, the brain rids itself of toxins by draining waste products — like excess beta amyloid — through a newly discovered “glymphatic system.” In experiments on mice, these researchers observed that the glymphatic system works ten times harder in the sleeping brain than when the brain is awake. It’s possible that too little sleep allows excess debris to build up in the brain, which could cause a myriad of problems.
The bottom line: If you’re not getting adequate sleep at night, you are at greater risk of gaining weight, becoming diabetic, having a heart attack or a stroke, getting depressed and winding up with Alzheimer’s disease! Want to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep? A sleep tracker can help you monitor the quality and quantity of your sleep in the privacy of your own home.