This is why a lack of sleep is dangerous


Is your daily rise and shine more like rise and whine? We talk to an expert about how to solve your sleep woes and get your forty winks

As kids, we all remember that dreaded call for bedtime and how we’d do anything to avoid it.

But as adults, going to bed can be a whole different issue when it comes to today’s 24/7 lifestyle, and the fact is that with a number of diseases attributed to chronic sleep deprivation, our late-night antics are affecting our health.

The science of sleep

“The simple fact is that if you don’t sleep, you die,” Dr Hady Jerdak, general manager of Harley Sleep Clinic at Harley Street Medical Centre, explains, cutting to the chase.

“Sleep is needed for us to reset our brain, and each phase of sleep is important. Ideally, 40 percent of our sleep should be superficial, 40 percent deep and 20 percent should be dreaming.”

Beyond what’s going on in our heads, sleep is important for the body, too: “Sleep is important for memory and resets the energy of the brain, but it also relaxes the heart and kidneys, so if you don’t sleep then it puts stress on your organs.”

With health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and chronic fatigue syndrome all linked to chronic sleep deprivation, insomnia is a multifactorial condition.

If your child is missing out on rest, then it could be a problem later on, Dr Hady adds.

“All the hormones are secreted at night, so a child who doesn’t sleep well or has their sleep disrupted by sleep apnoea may not grow as tall or be as smart. It leads to developmental disorders in the brain and body.”

Catching some zzzs

So what might stop us from getting some rest? The problem could be either medical or psychological.

“Insomnia can be caused by psychological or organic factors, and there are medical reasons that contribute to it,” Dr Hady explains.

With conditions including vitamin deficiency, hormonal imbalance and cardiovascular disease, the list of medical problems that can disrupt sleep is long – but it’s more likely that your issues are psychological or related to your environment.

“Nine out of ten people have psychological or environmental reasons for insomnia,” Dr Hady says.

“Environmental factors might be things you are doing, for example if you drink a lot of caffeine.”

What’s more, with our smartphone addiction, our screen time means we lose down time.

“Blue light emitted from devices is a huge factor,” comments Dr Hady. “But it’s also a case of when you stimulate the brain, it’s stopping you from sleeping.

Anxiety and depression can also cause problems and may require medication,” he adds.

“People who wake during the night may have low serotonin in the brain, and anti depressants will help them maintain a good sleep. The psychological issues do need to be addressed.”

So how can we make sure we’re setting up a good sleep environment?

“You need to sleep and wake at the same time, and you need to avoid things like smoking and coffee,” Dr Hady suggests.

“Try to avoid heavy meals, and make sure that if you exercise, you don’t do it right before you sleep, as this raises adrenaline and body temperature. Above all, you need a cold, dark room with no noise – that is important.”

Sleep tight

It’s time to sink into bed – make sure you get some quality sleep with tips from Dr Hady…

Put the phone down

Your smartphone, computer and television emit blue light, stopping your brain from producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Read up. A few pages before bedtime reduces stress, leading to a more restful slumber. Remember: iPads are out; books and Kindles are okay.

Set the scene. Your bedroom should be cold, dark and noiseless – and no television.

Daily grind. That coffee you had at noon? It could still be in your system 12 hours later, affecting your brain and sleep even at midnight.

Meditation nation. Meditation helps promote the brainwaves needed for sleep, as well as relaxing your body and breathing.

To find out more, contact: 02 613 3999,

WORDS Camille Hogg