Sleep Deprivation Leads to Health Problems

Aug 17, 2004 10:27 PM EDT

According to a recent report, lack of sleep can cause more than drowsiness—it can contribute to a number of health problems.

The report, published in the August issue of the Harvard Heart Letter, states that short-term effects of lack of sleep include increased blood pressure and elevated levels of stress hormone.

Sleep deprivation causes weight gain and diabetes

According to the authors, when the body is sleep deprived it 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 disease.

The report offers the following sleep advice:

• Establish a regular sleep schedule to set your internal clock;

• Avoid alcohol. While it may cause drowsiness, it also increases susceptibility to waking later on;

• Regular exercise can help with a good night's sleep, however, avoid 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 sleep is disturbed by having to use the washroom during the night, drink more fluids in the morning and afternoon and limit fluid intake after dinner;

• Check mattress and pillow to make sure they're providing the proper support.


1. “Wake-Up Call for Better Sleep,” Harvard Heart Letter, August 2004.