Nowadays, it’s custom knowledge that getting enough sleep is just as important to one’s health as exercise and eating healthy. Regardless of your age, a good night’s sleep improves mental and physical health, as well as attention span and memory.

Yes, sleeping a sufficient number of hours is essential. But when it comes to a lengthy sleep, some people may not actually get what they need from it. For some, a “long” sleep may actually work against them. It’s an issue that’s been taken more seriously by specialists who are interested in the effects of sleep on health.

Recently, specialists have identified the key elements that define quality sleep:

• At least 85% of the total time should be spent in bed sleeping;

• Falling asleep should take less than 30 minutes;

• You should only wake up once per night for less than 20 minutes.

These key elements can determine if you’re not sleeping as well as you should. That being said, they don’t take into account various problems or disorders that affect the quality of your sleep, which someone might be unaware of. This is particularly the case with sleep apnea which, if left undiagnosed and untreated, may also increase the risk of developing more complex health issues.

Lack of quality sleep: The effects on well-being

If unchecked, lack of quality sleep can affect your quality of life, disrupt your daily functions and weaken your wellbeing. Here’s where not sleeping enough or not well enough can affect you: 

1. Physical health

Our body is often the first to show signs of lack of rest and accumulated fatigue. Longer-term, those signs include lack of energy, poor recovery after exercise and increased risk of injury.

2. Alertness and reactions

Distraction, drowsiness and slow reaction time are significant symptoms of lack of sleep that can lead to accidents of all kinds: work, road, home, etc.

3. Sensory and motor functions

Lack of quality sleep causes a decrease in sensory perception and concentration, lack of attention, disorientation and even memory problems. Facing your day with a clear head becomes increasingly difficult.

4. Mood

Irritability, mood swings, loss of motivation, emotional instability are also signs related to the quality of your sleep.

Lack of quality sleep: The effects on your health

Like other stressors in your life, poor quality sleep can affect your metabolism. It can reduce the body's defences against infections and make it more vulnerable to inflammation and various diseases. Not getting quality sleep for a prolonged period is associated with these particular health problems:

1. Obesity

Obesity is probably the most researched effect that stems from lack of sleep. Studies show that people who don’t sleep enough or don’t sleep well enough tend to eat more, and eat more calories or fat and less protein, without doing proper exercise, which leads to weight gain.

2. Diabetes

Not getting quality sleep increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in some people. Their system becomes less sensitive to insulin, which leads to weight gain, one of the first stages of diabetes.

Also, in people who are already diabetic, poor quality sleep can also lead to a weakening in blood glucose control and the resulting complications.

3. Cardiovascular diseases

Poor sleep quality has long been associated with coronary artery disease and cardiac arrhythmia. Poor sleep also increases the risk of stroke and high blood pressure. This risk is increased with sleep apnea disorder.

4. Mood disorders

The link between sleep and depression is difficult to establish. People with depression tend to sleep for longer periods. Sleeping less can reduce their symptoms. That being said, lack of sleep can also increase mood disorders or induce depression.

Quality sleep is, without a doubt, one of the keys to maintaining one’s well-being and health. It’s important to ensure that you adopt and maintain good healthy habits. If you have the feeling that your sleep isn’t restorative or is insufficient, without taking into account the quality indicators listed by the sleep specialists, you may suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder that can go unnoticed for an extended period of time. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult your general practitioner who can refer you to a specialist.