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Rest is best: How lack of sleep harms your health

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You might see sleep as a break from your daily activities. But as you drift through the stages of slumber, your body and brain carry out tasks essential for physical and mental health. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of rest for good health. But more than one-fourth of those in the U.S. don’t get it—and the consequences are severe. Below, learn how it’s affecting your health, and what you can do about it.

It’s Hard on Your Heart

Chronic sleep deprivation contributes to inflammation throughout your body, high cholesterol and high blood pressure—all risk factors for heart disease. Improve the quality and quantity of sleep by upgrading your bedroom. Get rid of the TV and keep things quiet, cool and dark. Make sure to head to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. A regular sleep schedule helps ensure you get enough rest.

It’s Packing on Pounds

Shortened sleep may be partially to blame for America’s obesity epidemic. People who log less than five hours are significantly more likely to be heavy than those who get seven. They’re also more prone to weight gain over time. Why? Tired brains actually respond to food differently. They light up when study participants look at food-related photos, even if they’re not hungry. In turn, extra pounds make sleeping more difficult. Obese people are much more likely to have sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that disrupts breathing during the night. Break the cycle by avoiding big meals and beverages—especially alcohol—late at night. See your doctor if you snore loudly, choke or gasp during the night.

It’s Sending Your Blood Sugar Surging

Short-changing your snoozing increases your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. If you already have the disease, lack of sleep makes it harder to control. Having trouble drifting off? Try exercise. Regular workouts—in this case, walking with poles—improved sleep in one group of study participants with type 2 diabetes. But be sure to wrap up your workout at least three hours before bedtime to give your body time to unwind.

It’s Impairing Your Driving

More than one-third of Americans admit to falling asleep while driving, with more than one in 10 doing so once a month. Each year, fatigued drivers contribute to 100,000 crashes. And 16.5 percent of fatal collisions involve a drowsy driver.

Stay safe on the roadways by:

• Sleeping enough. Less than six hours triples your risk for a crash.

• Traveling with a passenger. Ask him or her to sit in the front seat and stay awake.

• Taking a break every two hours during long trips. If you’re sleepy, take a 20-minute power nap in a safe place.

 About Soundpath Health: Soundpath Health is a private, locally based health plan for Medicare beneficiaries, founded in 2007 and owned by area physicians. With over 6,500 providers in its network, Soundpath Health currently offers Medicare Advantage plans to nearly 17,000 members in nine counties in Washington State. Based in Federal Way Washington, Soundpath Health was voted one of Washington’s “Best Companies to Work For” in 2011. For more information, visit

Did You Know? Soundpath Health has an online Healthy Living Wellness Library that offers the latest articles on disease management, healthy living tips, fitness advice, and recipes designed for all types of dietary conditions. Each section offers solutions to common disease-related problems, advice and quizzes. To visit the Soundpath Health Wellness Center,

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