The fast paced nature of the modern world and the limited time we all seem to have to fit in our day to day activities are undeniably taking a huge toll on our physiological and physical well-being. Although the initial symptoms may appear to be harmless, sustained lack of sleep and stress can manifest themselves in some very serious health conditions.
Stress and a lack of sleep can shorten your lifespan in two major ways:
- Through the direct, unhealthy effects of lack of sleep and stress on the body in the long-term.
- Through the risky behaviors that lack of sleep and being stressed triggers.
Stress and lack of sleep have been linked to multiple of health conditions, including the potentially fatal ones, such as cancer and heart diseases. Thus, by managing stress and sleep properly, you can boost your quality of life at present, while improving your long-term state of health and life expectancy as well.
Research Studies: The Link between Lack of Sleep and Stress and Lower Life Expectancy
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Surrey; UK, and Erasmus MC University in Rotterdam; Holland, showed that young men who get eight hours of sleep regularly released more white blood cells, especially those known as granulocytes, as opposed to those men who got restricted sleep. Granulocytes respond to threats to the immune system. The researchers concluded that sleep deprivation compromises the immune system, just like stress does.
Lack of Sleep Significantly increases the Risk of Stroke
Another research conducted in 2012, showed that sleep deprivation greatly increases the risk of stroke, even in young and healthy people. According to the study, those who get less than six hours of sleep every night face a 4.5 percent higher risk of having a stroke, when compared to those who got 7 and 8 hours every night. Although the researchers did not establish the direct link, it is a known fact that chronic lack of sleep elevates heart rate and blood pressure, causes inflammation and affects blood glucose levels, resulting in higher risk of stroke.
Stress Sabotages the Immune System as Well
Over the years, numerous studies have shown that stress increased the risk of allergies, heart disease, cancer and susceptibility to flu and colds. Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, U.S.A, state that when the body is under stress, it releases cortisol (stress hormone). The function of cortisol is to give the body a jolt of energy and deal with the stressing situation. However, when the body is constantly exposed to cortisol due to continued stress, it loses its ability to control inflammation – this has also been seen in diabetes, whereby constant exposure to insulin results in insulin resistance.
The body’s immune system plays a vital role in protecting us from serious diseases such as cancer. Inflammation is also a strong indicator of diabetes, stroke, heart attack and other life threatening diseases. Today, more and more studies are being conducted to identify the effects of sleep loss and stress on shortening lifespan.
Stress and Sleep Deprivation may lead to Accidents
Fatal road accidents are often linked to fatigue and poor concentration, as a result of poor sleep schedules and stress respectively. Studies claim that stress and lack of sleep affect the reaction time and is as dangerous as drunk driving. People under the age of 30 are mostly affected by this phenomenon.
Generally, stress and sleep deprivation go hand in hand. In fact, if you are undergoing a lot of stress, chances are that you will suffer from insomnia. Health statistics estimate that up to 90 percent of insomnia patients suffer from other chronic health conditions which may be life threatening. These include cardiac problems, high blood pressure, heart failure and heart attack.
How to Reverse the Adverse Effects of Stress and Lack of Sleep
First and foremost, ensure that you are getting enough sleep. During periods of stress, you particularly need more sleep than when life is running smoothly. However, sleeping for more than eight hours can be counterproductive.
Reduce the consumption of coffee, tea and other beverages containing caffeine during the day. If you like coffee and tea, go for the decaffeinated types. In addition, drink a glass of low fat milk before going to bed. The amino acid found in milk known as tryptophan will help you sleep better.
Consider buying pressure mattresses, as they can greatly help in having good quality sleep. They provide you with comfort and ensure that you are not waking up with headaches and neck pains.
Lastly, to relieve stress, consider doing rigorous exercises, meditation and yoga. Exercises in particular can be very effective because they facilitate the production of hormones such as endorphins, which naturally soothes the body from pain and other stressful situations.
Alex Pejak is a blogger who likes to write about health, well-being and fitness. She was inspired to write this article after being under stress at work and not sleeping properly. She discovered that a proper mattress is the key to a good night’s sleep. She went and purchased a brand new mattress and has slept soundly ever since. (For more information on pressure mattresses click here)