Starved For Sleep? It Could Be Hurting Your Health

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When life gets hectic, sleep is one of the first things to go.

"I mean sleep is the one thing we take out of the bank to pay the other bills,” says Dr. Allen Dollar, Chief of Cardiology for Grady Memorial Hospital and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Emory School of Medicine.

Research is increasingly revealing how important a good night’s rest is to our health.  Most sleep experts agree we need anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of shut-eye a night, which to a lot of people, may sound like a pipe dream.

Dollar says sleep is extremely important.  But we don’t always give it the respect it deserves.

"Life is what it is,” Dollar says.  “And sometimes there are things you have to do in order to maintain a job or to do things in life that you need to do."

Dollar says lack of sleep can cause problems with concentration, job performance and thinking clearly.

But it can also affect us in subtle ways.

“Things like weight gain,” Dr. Dollars says. “Things like depression."

A 2015 study shows women who regularly got less than 6 hours of sleep a night were at higher risk for diabetes. Another found a link between lack of sleep and high blood pressure.

Dr. Dollar says insufficient sleep can also raise our risk of heart attack and stroke.

"There is a rhythm to when heart attacks occur,” he says.  “The most dangerous part of the day is when you first wake up."

That’s because about two hours before we get up, Dollar says, our body starts to produce hormones to wake us up, hormones than can also raise our heart attack or stroke risk.

"And to the same degree when we're sleep deprived, our body tries to make up for that producing many of those same hormones that put us at risk,” he says.

Lack of sleep may also be making you fat.   Research shows people starved for sleep tend to eat more, crave carbs and higher calorie foods. And, Dollar says, they eat at odd hours.

"When people are sleep deprived, running out the door, grabbing a bunch of candy bars, that doesn't work out as well”  he says says.

Dr. Dollar says he knows your busy. But, if you have a choice? Go to bed.