New research found when healthy men in their
20s got only 5 hours of sleep per night, the way
their bodies metabolized fat shifted.

Rather than evaporating triglyceride-rich
lipoproteins that have been linked to the
formation of clogging and dangerous fatty
plaques in the arteries, their bodies began storing
them.

Additional research has found the number of
people who aren’t getting a healthy amount of
sleep each night continues to rise.

Sleep deprivation over a period of time has been
linked to several serious health conditions
including hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and a
suppressed immune system.
We’re not getting enough sleep — and that’s having
a significant impact on our day-to-day and long-
term health.

From mental health to how our bodies store fat,
recent research is adding to evidence that illustrates
how much sleep deprivation can, and is, impacting
our individual and collective health, particularly in
the United States.
It’s been well-documented that getting adequate
sleep helps strengthen our immune system and is
associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular
and metabolic diseases, including obesity and type
2 diabetes.

One such way sleep deprivation hurts us,
researchers at Pennsylvania State University
suggest, is that it makes us feel less full even after
eating a high-fat dinner.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Lipid
Research, addressed how getting 5 hours of sleep a
night, 4 days a week — followed by one 10-hour
night of “recovery sleep” — affected 15 healthy men
in their 20s.

Specifically, how it affected their postprandial
lipemia, or the rise of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins
that’s been linked to the formation of clogging and
dangerous fatty plaques in the arteries.
What the researchers found wasn’t good.

“The lipids weren’t evaporating — they were being
stored,” Orfeu Buxton , PhD, a professor at Penn
State and one of the senior authors of the new
study, said in a press release.

Experts are still unable to pinpoint exactly why
getting enough sleep is a problem, but they say
stress from work not only impacts our sleep, but
that lack of sleep makes our jobs more stressful.

Another recent study by Ball State University
researchers found that nearly a third of working
Americans report getting 7 hours of sleep or less, a
trend they say is getting worse by the year.

The team, lead by health science professor Jagdish
Khubchandani , PhD, analyzed 150,000 working
American adults from 2010 to 2018. They found
nearly 31 percent weren’t getting enough sleep in
2010, but that increased to almost 36 percent over
the next 8 years.

The results were nearly identical for men and
women, but some races and professions are getting
hit harder than others.

“This is a significant finding because the U.S. is
currently witnessing high rates of chronic diseases
across all ages, and many of these diseases are
related to sleep problems,” Dr. Khubchandani said
in a statement accompanying the research.

The researchers at Ball State found African
Americans and multi-racial adults saw the largest
increases, with each group having more than 45
percent of study participants reporting that they
don’t get enough sleep. It adds to the racial
disparities ingrained in U.S. healthcare.

Between 45 and 50 percent of people working in
the healthcare field and the police and military
reported being sleep deprived.

Forty-one percent of people in transport, material
moving, and production occupations reported the
same thing.

That’s of particular concern considering these high-
stress jobs often result in life-or-death decisions
made in windows lasting only seconds — from
avoiding accidents on the road to de-escalating a
potentially fatal encounter.

It doesn’t help that they also typically involve long
and odd hours, making a routine sleep pattern more
difficult.

Khubchandani said not only is inadequate sleep
associated with mild to severe physical and mental
health problems, injury, loss of productivity, and
premature mortality, but there’s no definitively
known cause found for why fewer people are getting
the sleep they need.

“We see the workplace is changing as Americans
work longer hours, and there is greater access and
use of technology and electronic devices, which
tend to keep people up at night,” he said.

“Add to this the progressive escalation in workplace
stress in the United States and the rising prevalence
of multiple chronic conditions could be related to
short sleep duration in working American adults,” he
added.

Khubchandani said one thing employers can do is
take steps to make sure their workers are getting
enough rest.

“We all suffer when our bus and truck drivers,
doctors, and nurses are sleep deprived,” he said.
And people in the medical field agree. But their
busy schedules and long hours make it unrealistic
to get enough restorative 7-hour-plus nights of
sleep a week.

“We’re the worst offenders,” Dr. Shanon Makekau ,
chief of pulmonary and sleep medicine at Kaiser
Permanente Hawaii, in Honolulu, told Healthline.

Makekau says not getting enough sleep can affect
the way we think and react, which includes
decreased alertness and memory impairment.
“Sadly, poor sleep also affects our mood,” she
said.

Over a long period of time, more hours of lost rest
increase a person’s risk of accidents and an overall
poor quality of life, Makekau said.

Physically that can translate to not only obesity and
diabetes, but also high blood pressure, a
suppressed immune system, low sex drive, and an
overall chance of death apart from any other
medical condition.

Mentally that can lead to anxiety, depression,
paranoia, and even hallucinations.

In children, a lack of sleep can lead to hyperactivity,
which could be confused as attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“For so long we’ve talked about being mindful of
our health with diet and exercise,” Makekau said.
“Something we take for granted is sleep until we
don’t get enough.”

Some of the most common reasons people give
Makekau for missing sleep is work and social
responsibilities, which include overusing personal
technology to stay up to date on social media.

Those ubiquitous screens, whether it be phones,
tablets, computers, or televisions, emit a blue light
that messes with our sleep patterns.
“It’s harder for the brain to turn off,” Makekau said.
“Let the mind have time to wind down.”

It’s recommended to avoid those glowing screens
an hour — 2, ideally — before bedtime.
But using technology by setting a sleep alarm
telling you it’s time to climb into a comfortable bed
in a quiet, dark room is one way to use technology
to help you sleep.

You can also use a device like a Fitbit to track your
sleep patterns.

“In the current climate of technology,” Makekau
said, “we can use it to our benefit rather than our
detriment.”