Sleep Diseases Away
Oct. 9, 2014|291 views
t’s no secret that millions of Americans suffer from overweight and obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions are part of a burgeoning epidemic. And they all have one thing in common: inflammation.
Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. Under ideal circumstances, it helps protect us from diseases, such as bacterial infections. But under less-then-ideal circumstances, chronic, low-grade inflammation can become a sort of background state of affairs in the body. And inflammation is believed to underlie many, if not all, of the conditions mentioned above. That’s because chronic, unresolved inflammation can eventually turn against the very cells it’s intended to protect. Left unchecked, low-level inflammation degrades the body’s cells and erodes the immune system.
But there’s another common denominator at work here: sleep.
Sleep is arguably one of the most overlooked aspects of health. It’s routinely ignored, cheated, shortchanged, taken for granted, and denied adequate respect. But those who skimp on sleep do so at their peril.
During sleep, the body makes crucial repairs in a board array of organs and systems. Never mind that too little sleep leaves you feeling unfocused, unable to concentrate, and even lengthens your reflexes and reaction times. It also damages your body. Inflammation is the link between lost sleep and higher risks of various diseases.
Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles recently looked into the effects of treating insomnia on markers of inflammation. It’s estimated that 15% of older adults suffer from chronic insomnia. Researchers wondered if treating insomnia in these people would translate into reduced levels of inflammation (and, presumably, lower risks of inflammation-related diseases). The short answer: Yes. Treating insomnia lowers inflammation. And cognitive behavioral therapy—a way to change counterproductive thought patterns—is the most effective method for treating insomnia.
Even 16 months after treating patients’ insomnia, their levels of a key inflammation marker— a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP)—remained lower. The benefits of adequate sleep are comparable to the benefits of vigorous exercise or weight loss. “To advance public health, these findings prominently emphasize the position of sleep among the three pillars of health—diet, exercise and sleep,” said Michael Irwin, of UCLA. Furthermore, “…if insomnia is untreated and sleep disturbance persists, we found that CRP levels progressively increase…Together, these findings indicate that it is even more critical to treat insomnia in this population who are already at elevated risk for aging-related inflammatory disease.”
Do yourself a favor and don’t even consider shortchanging your sleep. Your body will thank you.