Why is sleep so important?

Why is sleep so important?

Three pillars of health: nutrition, exercise and sleep. Some experts argue that sleep might even be the most important of the three, as it acts as a foundation supporting the other two.

Sleep is your ticket to a healthy life!

You may be doing as much sport as you can and eating as healthy as possible but without proper sleep your health is still at risk. Sleep has been linked to multiple health issues. No part of the human body is spared from the destructive effects caused by poor sleep.

There have been over 17,000 research studies conducted relating to sleep conditions. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) many industrialised countries suffer from an epidemic of sleep deprivation.

The two most ominous diseases threatening developed countries right now, cancer and dementia, are both proven to be associated with lack of proper sleep. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in US even refers to sleep disorders as a “public health epidemic1 (ASMS, 2018).

Bad sleep, bad heart

In 2011, a study conducted on over 500,000 people all around the world showed that a slight decrease in sleep time increases the risk of heart failure by 45%.

Interestingly enough, doctors have reported that in the northern hemisphere during the “spring forward”, when daylight saving time begins, the loss of the one hour of sleep has astonishing effects on health. Thousands of hospital reports show a significant increase in heart attacks the week after the time change2.The effect is opposite in autumn when time is changed back.

Adults over the age of 45, who sleep less than 6 hours per night, are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, than those sleeping for 7 or 8 hours per night3.

What sleep-related issues to look out for?

We can see that sleep has multiple impacts on our health. Unfortunately, a big part of the population suffers from certain sleep disorders. Here are the most common problems that you or someone close to you may face.


There are two types of insomnia: short-term or acute (less than 3 weeks) and chronic (more than 3 weeks). Acute insomnia can be attributed to a chronotype disturbance due to jet lag, stimulants or stress. Chronic insomnia is more often than not multifactorial. The common causes include psychological and psychiatric conditions, as well as the medical treatment of other diseases.

Obstructive sleep apnoea is an obstruction of the airway preventing air from flowing. Most often it is the spouses and parents that identify apnoea.


Snoring is a very common condition associated with two distinct consequences.

First of all, it is the physical discomfort the person suffers from during snoring, which has a general effect on his or her wellbeing. The sound disrupts the person’s sleep and creates micro-arousals (unconscious to the sleeper), making it impossible to reach the deep phases of sleep and have a proper rest. The snorer’s partner also often feels tired, drowsy and poorly rested the next day. This phenomenon can be measured by the sleep fragmentation index.

Secondly, snoring may be one of the initial symptoms of sleep apnoea. Therefore, doctors recommend for snorers to take a sleep test.


There are three basic forms of the disease:

  • Hypopnea - a reduction in the air flow;
  • Obstructive apnea - a barrier preventing air from flowing; 
  • Central apnea - frequent interruptions of breathing by the breathing control system in the brain.

This may occasionally go unnoticed, that is why it is often the spouses and parents that identify apnoea. Sleep apnoea has substantial negative health consequences. Therefore, it is highly recommended to take a sleeping test when in doubt.

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