The Sleep Council p10_night-sky_lo-res Sleep Healthy  As a nation we’re literally squeezing sleep out of our lifestyles.

Worrying about work and finances is keeping us up late as well as the fact that we’re completely over connected – ie we’re reluctant to put down the smartphone or tablet and instead continue to check emails and social networking right up to the minute we want to close our eyes.

Last year I wrote about ‘sleep hacking’ – a trend specifically among women who were ‘too busy to sleep more than four hours’ – which is just a horrifying fad where women are forcing themselves to sleep less and training themselves to not feel exhausted.

People almost boast about the fact they only need four to five hours a night – like sleeping less is fashionable?

But think carefully before trying to cut down on your sleep. An on-going battle against your body clock may lead to serious health issues.

Those who cut back their sleep to less than six hours a night are at 4.5 percent greater risk of having a stroke compared to those who slept seven to eight hours a night. Researchers don’t know the exact mechanism but it seems chronic lack of sleep causes inflammation, elevates blood pressure and heart rate and affects glucose levels leading to a much higher stroke risk.

Did you also know that poor quality sleep is strongly associated with mood disturbance and lower quality of life?

Or that burning the candle at both ends increases the chances of coming down with coughs, colds and upset stomachs – especially among students and young adults?

If you sleep well it keeps the brain healthy and flushes brain debris, fending off Alzheimer’s. According to research during sleep the rate of clearance doubles, which means poor sleep allows debris to accumulate, including the toxic proteins believed to trigger Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, you are more likely to be obese and also develop type 2 diabetes. Research found that sleeping less than four hours a night frequently means you’re 73% more likely to be overweight than someone who sleeps well. And that if you sleep less than six hours a night during the working week you are three times more likely to have higher blood sugar levels than people who sleep between 6 and 8 hours.

So remember it’s not cool to limit sleep and you’re never too busy to look after your health – while you may eat well and exercise often, you must sleep well too.

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