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Effects of Poor Sleep

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

The National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep Awareness Week will be held March 14-20, 2021. This event celebrates sleep health and encourages people to get plenty of sleep to improve their health and well-being (being comfortable, healthy, and happy).

Sometimes it is hard or impossible to get the recommended eight hours of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can make it difficult to do our best at school and work, to lose weight, and can affect how we communicate and react to other people.

An experiment with rats was done at the University of Illinois to see how poor sleep habits affect people. Rats are nocturnal. This means that they sleep during the day and are awake at night. The experiment was made to interfere with their daytime sleep periods. The idea came from doctors and other health care workers who work overnight schedules.

The scientists disrupted the rats’ sleep for 28 days and discovered that disrupted sleep caused the rats to have high blood pressure and changes to their gut microbiome. High blood pressure can eventually cause the heart not to work properly. The gut is the digestive system and microbiomes are organisms (like bacteria) that live in the intestines that are so tiny they can only be seen through a microscope. The rats continued to have high blood pressure even after they were able to go back to their normal sleep schedule. The gut microbiome changes started about a week after their sleep was disrupted.

This experiment is a first step in finding ways to help people who could have heart problems because of their work and sleep schedules. People will always have responsibilities that interrupt their sleep. The scientists want to be able to lower their risk with new medicines or changes to their diet.

Here are Five Healthy Sleep Habits:

  1. Stick to a Schedule

  2. Limit Caffeine (soda, coffee, or tea)

  3. Have a Nighttime Routine

  4. Exercise

  5. Think Sleepy Thoughts

For more information about sleep habits and children, visit here.

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