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Nobel Prize-Winning Science Highlights Importance of Good Sleep for Health

The importance of sleep cannot be overstated, and the fact that the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine just went to three biologists1,2,3,4,5 — Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young — for their discovery of master genes that control your body's circadian rhythms only strengthen this position.

Your body contains not just one biological clock, but a vast array of clocks that regulate everything from metabolism to psychological functioning. Over the long term, skimping on sleep — which is a surefire way to dysregulate your circadian clock — can contribute to a whole host of chronic health problems. It also raises your risk of accidents and occupational errors.

The Many Health Hazards of Insufficient Sleep

As noted by NPR,6 "Studies show if you mess with the body's sleep-wake cycle, your blood pressure goes up, hunger hormones get thrown off and blood sugar regulation goes south. Over time … this may set the stage for metabolic diseases such as diabetes."

Indeed, research shows reducing your sleep by a single hour per night increases the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk and stress.7 Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that lack of sleep is a public health epidemic, noting that insufficient sleep has been linked to a wide variety of health problems.

Shift workers, insomniacs and travelers crossing time zones are far from the only ones affected by circadian disruptions. Just staying up late watching television or working on your computer (or surfing the net on your iPad or cellphone) will have a similarly detrimental effect.

The blue light emitted by screen technology very effectively inhibits melatonin production, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from these kinds of technologies also have significant effects. I'll address both of these issues below.

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