Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. If you sleep fewer than 7 hours, you can develop a “sleep debt.” This is a term for the negative health effects you may face by not getting enough sleep. In addition to sleepiness, irritability, and an inability to focus, sleep debt has also been linked to serious health problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. According to a study recently presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego, even a very small sleep debt puts you at a high risk of obesity and insulin resistance.
Researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha, Qatar looked at the BMI (body mass index), waist size, and insulin sensitivity of 522 people with type 2 diabetes. The subjects were told to keep a record of how long they slept each night, so that the researchers could figure out each person’s sleep debt. At the 12-month follow-up, the scientists found that for each 30 minutes of sleep debt, the subjects had a:
- 17% higher risk for obesity
- 39% higher risk for insulin resistance
This means that missing just half an hour of sleep each week can make it harder to control your blood glucose levels and avoid diabetes complications. Because of the results of this study, some researchers are calling for sleep education to be a key part of treatment for metabolic conditions. Here are a few tips to help you get more high quality sleep:
- Relax before bed: Try a warm bath, deep breathing, or reading.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine at least a few hours before sleeping.
- Get enough exercise during the day, but not too close to bedtime.
- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.