Risk for diabetes. Buxton's team also found a connection between lack of sleep, interrupted sleep, and a slide toward pre-diabetes. Sleep affects the way our bodies process food. In a matter of three weeks, the pancreas seemed to stop responding to meals normally, making a third less insulin, a hormone that converts sugar to energy, leaving too much blood sugar in the body's system—the hallmark of diabetes. Buxton notes that this main finding held true despite the age or gender of the person.
Changing sleep patterns. What can the tired American do to get a normal night of slumber? Recognizing that you are sleep-deprived is a good first step, notes Kram. "People believe and are convinced 6 hours of sleep is sufficient, but it's not," says Kram. He adds that the good news is once you start having longer, quality nights of sleep, you can begin to restore normal hormonal functions quickly. Roust suggests learning how to relax in the evening by taking a warm bath, turning off the TV and phone, and preparing for bedtime. Your health depends on it.