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Sleep deprivation can often lead to more complex health issues…

Posted by Doctaly on

You may have heard it all your life – a good night’s sleep is an integral part to keeping healthy! Our lives are becoming increasingly bombarded with images, gratefully consumed by our insatiable appetite for social media, films easily streamed from the comfort of our beds, couches or even on our commute to work. Effectively, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep away from media content and to refrain from wanting to see it. Quick meals devoured after a long day at the office, often not long before we go to sleep, and not a lot of thought put behind the ingredients consumed and whether these will contribute to a good night’s sleep. Morning comes, the night has been short, usually watching a series on Netflix until the early hours and the morning routine kicks in, our mind not fully rested and our bodies even less so. Exercise has not even had a chance to be factored into your diary, the working day looms, kids’ routine for school if you are a parent, and repeat!

We are without a shadow of doubt our worse enemies to getting a good night’s sleep. In fact, in a survey carried out by AVIVA, the UK was deemed to be the worst country in Europe for Insomnia, with one in three people according to the Sleep Health Foundation suffering from the condition.

According to the Great British bedtime Report, 30% of those sampled, reported getting a poor night’s sleep most nights. The survey started in 2013 and the second survey took place in 2017. As a nation, the number of people getting less than 5 hours per night has increased from 7% to 12% in just 4 years.

Sleep deprivation affects our mood, energy level, productivity at work and creativity – simply put, it has a huge impact on our cognitive and physical ability to cope with the day-to-day routine. However, more concerning is the long-term impact that sustained sleep deprivation can have on our health.


Here are some of the most commonly reported issues in medical literature relating to sleep deprivation. It is worth noting that the amount of sleep you need is very dependent on the individual – whilst some may need just 3 hours’ sleep, others may need up to 11 hours!

Obesity, according to several studies appears to be correlated to sleep deprivation, in ways that are better understood now, but still being studied. During sleep, our bodies will produce hormones that have an impact on our appetite, energy levels and the way we process glucose and store fat. Increased insulin and cortisol levels (stress hormone), and lower levels of leptin (which tells our brain when it has had enough to eat) are common symptoms. All in all, it is easy to see how sleep deprivation would have an impact on weight.

Cardiovascular Disease is another concern resulting from lack of sleep. Even one poor night’s sleep can have a detrimental impact, particularly with people who already have high blood pressure. One study found that less than 6 hours’ sleep and more than 9 hours’ sleep in women, increased the risk of coronary heart disease.

Sleeping five hours or less per night was shown to increase the mortality risk (life expectancy) from all causes by approximately 15%. This was concluded from three large cross-sectional epidemiological studies.

You are at a higher risk of developing diabetes type 2 when you are sustainably lacking sleep, primarily due to increased insulin levels and slower processing of our glucose.

The list of conditions which can occur where lack of sleep is a contributory factor, is a long one, and certainly true when it comes to the psychological effects of sleep deprivation.

Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, ADHD to name but a few. 65% to 90% of adults suffering from major depression disorders are estimated to suffer from sleep issues.

Studies have demonstrated that alcohol consumption is higher amongst people who suffer from sleep deprivation. This is likely due to the belief that alcohol can help you sleep as it does act as a mild sedative. That effect is however temporary – once processed, alcohol begins to stimulate certain parts of the brain leading to sleep issues.

We asked our Chief Medical Officer Dr Dinesh Silva whether he sees many patients presenting issues relating to sleep deprivation and the answer was a resounding ‘YES’. He said, ‘many patients will be looking for sleeping tablets to be prescribed as a short term fix, however GPs are keen to help their patients understand the root cause of the issue first, and then try to assess the best long-term solution, as sleeping tablets are often not the best solution and can be very addictive’.

According to a report commissioned by The Sleep Alliance, 6% of adults in the UK suffer from excessive sleepiness, which equates to over 3.5 million people. More worryingly, 20% of accidents on motorways are caused by excessive tiredness. If these stats are not a wake-up call (no pun intended), then I am not sure what would be!

Here are some simple tips on getting a better night’s sleep and remember, if you need professional help, Doctaly’s hand-picked team of the very best doctors are at your service – just go to www.doctaly.com to book an appointment.

Tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Make sure to keep a bed-time routine, limiting the amount of screen time at least an hour before sleep. A book is always the better option, as the light emitted from phones and computer screens tends to confuse our body clocks.
  • Make sure to eat a light meal in the evening.
  • Some food is known by nutritionists as being good to promote sleep:
    • Bananas: If there was ever a food that’s made for sleep then it’s the banana – with an excellent proportion of potassium, magnesium and also tryptophan, these nutrients are ideal for promoting sleep.
    • Sour cherries contain a whole host of nutrients which promote sleep, including B vitamins, magnesium and potassium. However, it is best known for containing melatonin, which naturally regulates sleep.
    • Oatmeal: rich in magnesium and potassium which promote sleep. This is a complex source of carbohydrates and so takes longer to break down and will not provide a sugar high.
    • Almonds: These are rich in sleep-inducing B-vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium, helping the production of melatonin.
  • Exercise regularly. Studies have shown that exercise significantly improves the sleep patterns of people with chronic insomnia
  • Take up Yoga. A recent Harvard Medical School study has shown that practising yoga can help you sleep better. Quality and duration were shown to have improved.
  • Critically, look after your health. If you are concerned about your health talk to a doctor, as stress relating to health worries will disrupt your sleep.

We hope you’ve found this blog useful and may your nights be filled with restful and rejuvenating sleep from here on in! P.s – don’t waste your time counting those sheep… it never works!


Posted in: Lifestyle