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The Deep Connection Between Sleep Deprivation and Health

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There are thousands of diet fads and trends that continue to flood the health industry. Yet, the number one thing that determines our health is sleep.

Learn what a lack of sleep does to you and how quality sleep will improve health in the short and long term. We’ll also include a section on how a healthy life will bring low health insurance rates.

And we can’t talk about the harm of inadequate sleep and the benefit of good sleep without sharing how to get that elusive full night of rest. In this article, we'll cover the effects of sleep deprivation, why sleep is important, and a few sleep solutions.

Why Sleep Deprivation is Serious: The Negative Health Effects of Sleep Deprivation

That golden oldie song “Tossin’ and Turnin’“ is fun to dance to, but there’s nothing fun about actually tossing and turning all night.

Despite sleep deprivation’s misery, in America, it’s a significant activity. More than a third of American adults don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night, according to a study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As they note, a good night’s sleep is critical for good health. Your body and your brain need sleep to repair themselves. Missing your zzz’s goes beyond frequently yawning, being irritable, and experiencing daytime fatigue. The sleep deprivation effects on both your mental and physical wellbeing can be detrimental to your quality of life.

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Physical Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation effects on the body include chronic pain, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and even premature death. Surprisingly, one study on rats showed that sleep deprivation death can happen. Poor sleep hygiene and sleep loss should not be taken lightly.

Sleep deprivation may also increase the risk of severe accidents and injury.

Mental Health Effects of Sleep Deprivation

A lack of adequate sleep can affect your judgment, mood, and ability to learn and retain information. This can wreak havoc on your professional life. Your reduced efficiency and productivity, errors, and accidents could cost your job.

If you’re wondering if you’re just experiencing a few nights of insufficient sleep or it’s something more, be aware of these warning signs. They can reveal it’s time to take steps to combat your sleep problems. Sleep and mental health go hand-in-hand. Our brains need to be turned off and reset. Sleep gives us the needed mental rest. The psychological effects of sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on one's mental wellbeing. A lack of sleep makes though processing and emotional thinking much harder. It also can enhance any existing psychosocial disorders.

Signs and Symptoms of Insomnia

If it takes you more than a half-hour to fall asleep, you wake up too early, you sleep less than six and a half hours a night, and you feel like you can’t focus during the day because you’re so tired, you might have insomnia.

The standard medical definition of chronic insomnia disorder is at least three sleepless nights a week for at least three months.

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially severe sleep disorder. Symptoms include abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking, awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat, loud snoring, morning headache, and nighttime sweating.

How Good Sleep Equals Good Health

The physical benefits of sleeping well include:

  • Avoiding injuries
  • Decreasing your appetite, so you eat fewer calories
  • Getting sick less often
  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Maximizing athletic performance
  • And reducing your risk for serious health problems.

The mental health benefits of sleep include:

  • Enhancing your short-term and long-term memory
  • Getting along better with people
  • Improving your mood
  • Reducing stress
  • Thinking more clearly to do better at work

How Good Sleep Equals Lower Insurance Rates

Sleeping well can also help reduce stress by helping your budget when paying your insurance bills.

Get Lower Rates on Health Insurance

High-quality sleep can not only help you eat less, but it can also help you eat better. When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more inclined to eat high-fat, high-sugar, and high-calorie foods.

With bad eating habits comes the higher occurrence of creating or exacerbating medical conditions. Health insurance plans increase exponentially — up to 250 percent more — by pre-existing conditions you can avoid by getting better sleep. All of which will help you make healthier eating choices every day. 

Get Lower Rates on Life Insurance

Your weight and any medical conditions also come into play regarding your life insurance rate. Being obese is tied to almost every leading cause of death. Suppose you’re doing things that help extend your life. In that case, you’re a lower risk to life insurers, who will underwrite your policy at a higher class, so you’ll pay a lower life insurance rate.

You can get life insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. The chances are better the less severe your condition, as well as how well you’ve been taking steps to have it monitored regularly and are following a doctor’s orders. Your life insurance premium could be up to 10 percent more with a pre-existing condition.

Get Lower Rates on Car Insurance

According to the American Sleep Association, drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal accidents annually in the United States. Another sobering fact is that 4.7 percent of drivers report nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month.

Suppose you’re in an accident, and the police officer at the scene documents that your sleepiness was the cause. In that case, it’s not a certainty that your car insurance will pay your claim. Your insurer most likely will if you’re in good standing with them.

If your accident is in Arkansas or New Jersey, laws in those states define drowsy driving as a punishable offense. And California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, and Maine have adopted driver’s license restrictions for drivers with untreated sleep disorders. An untreated sleep disorder in one of these states could lead to sanctions on when and how you’re allowed to drive.

Your insurer could raise your rates for getting caught falling asleep at the wheel. A reckless driving offense could increase your premium by over $1,000 annually.

The insurance company could also decide to cancel your policy. You’d have to get high-risk insurance, which can cost double and even triple what you’d pay for regular car insurance.

The cleaner your driving record, the lower the risk you are to your insurer, and they’ll reward you with a lower rate.

How to Get Better Sleep

You know the consequences of sleep deprivation and the benefits of dozing fitfully. But do you know how to get to sleep and stay asleep?

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Try beating insomnia by adopting these good sleep habits:

  • Clock in and out consistently. Make the time you go to bed and the time you rise the same time every day, which will help balance your body’s internal clock.
  • Don’t force it. If you can’t fall asleep and you’re not drowsy, get out of bed and do something calming until you feel sleepy.
  • Get chill without a pill. Follow a routine to relax before bed, like taking a bath, listening to music, or reading a book.
  • Go light on food for lights out. A light snack before bedtime may help you sleep, but a heavy meal followed by lying down could cause heartburn. It also keeps your body awake because it has to stay busy working to digest all those calories.
  • Move that body. Being physically active improves the quality and the length of your sleep. It also reduces stress and makes you tired.
  • Sign off. Stop staring at your computer screen, smartphone, tablet, and TV a few hours before bed since the blue light from these electronics blocks melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy.
  • Smoke, drink and caffeinate early. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that not only delay the timing of your body clock but also reduce your amount of deep sleep. While alcohol is a depressant that may help you fall asleep quicker, it causes restlessness during later sleep stages. 
  • Take your mind off of your mind. If your brain snaps into overdrive as soon as your head hits the pillow, keep a pen and paper bedside to make a to-do list to help you put your concerns aside. 
  • Think cool, calm, and comfy. Make your bedroom an oasis by investing in good quality sheets, blankets, and pillows.

Eating Habits for Sleeping

The best foods for a light snack? Those low in acid, caffeine, fat, fiber, protein, sugar, and spice. Opt for almonds, bananas, cherries, chicken noodle soup, cottage cheese, fatty fish, low-fat yogurt, low-sugar cereal with skim milk, peanut butter, spinach, sweet potatoes, turkey, and white rice.

Steer clear of burgers, burritos, cheese, chocolate, dried fruit, french fries, grapefruit, hot peppers, ice cream, peppermint, pizza, sugary cereals, and tomatoes. 

When to Seek Professional Help

If you’re experiencing symptoms of insomnia, consult a physician. Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you about your medical history and your sleep history. You may also be asked to keep a sleep diary to track your sleep patterns and how you feel during the day.

You may be prescribed sleeping pills for a short time. But if you want to steer clear of drugs, look into therapy.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also called talk therapy, has been shown to have long-lasting benefits in treating insomnia without the risk of harmful side effects. The treatment involves such methods as relaxation techniques.

If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, this calls for consulting a physician as well. In addition to your doctor’s examinations and tests, you may be referred to a sleep specialist at a sleep center.

You may only need to make lifestyle changes if your sleep apnea is mild, such as exercising regularly, losing weight, and quitting smoking. But for a more severe condition, sleep therapy products will be recommended, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, a mouthpiece, or a nasal mask.

Now that you’re more aware of the effects of good sleep and how to get it, turn off the lights, pull up the sheets, and start enjoying better physical, mental, and financial health.

About the Author

Karen Condor is an insurance and wellness expert who writes and researches for the life insurance comparison site, EffortlessInsurance.com

About Carex Health Brands

Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.

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