Lost Sleep Leads to Health Problems

Advice on how to get a good night's slumber and avoid future heart trouble

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FRIDAY, Aug. 13, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Lack of sleep can cause more than drowsiness; it can contribute to a number of health problems.

Short-term effects of lack of sleep include increases in blood pressure and levels of stress hormones, according to an article in the August issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

When it's sleep-deprived, the body has more difficulty processing blood sugar and has reduced levels of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone. These changes can increase the risk of weight gain and diabetes. Lack of sleep also increases inflammation in the body, which is believed to be an important factor in the development of heart diseases.

The Harvard Heart Letter offers the following advice on how to improve your sleep:

  • Establish a regular bedtime schedule in order to set your internal clock.
  • Avoid alcohol. While it may make you drowsy, it also makes you wake more easily later on.
  • Regular exercise can help you get a good night's sleep. But don't exercise within three hours of bedtime.
  • Try to reduce consumption of coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages and avoid them during the afternoon and evening.
  • If your sleep is disturbed by having to urinate during the night, try drinking more fluids in the morning and afternoon and limiting your fluid intake after dinner.
  • Check your mattress and pillow to make sure they're providing you with proper support.

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more about how to get a good night's sleep.

SOURCE: Harvard Heart Letter, news release, August 2004

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