Home News What happens to the body if we don’t sleep well? Neurologists warn of the impact on health

What happens to the body if we don’t sleep well? Neurologists warn of the impact on health

What happens to the body if we don’t sleep well?  Neurologists warn of the impact on health

Sleeping well is synonymous with health, which is why World Sleep Day It is celebrated every year on the third Friday of March with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of sleep for a healthy life. Along these lines, this year the chosen motto is “Sleep Equity for Global Health” to focus on the differences in sleep between people and the impact of bad sleeping habits and the different sleep disorders that, according to data from the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN) affect the 22-30% of the Spanish populationrepresents for public health around the world.

“He healthy sleep is one that adapts to the needs of the person and their environment, is satisfactory, has a appropriate duration and scheduleis efficient without waking periods during the night and allows for sustained alert during waking hours. Achieving this does not depend solely on greater education and awareness of sleep habits. There are impediments, in a large part of the population, mainly due to the work, social and lifestyle needs that subtract hours from night rest, being inadequate below 7 hours in adults. A bad rest has consequences on individual health and on society in general and is associated with mental, emotional and physical health problems. In addition, people with chronic illnesses, members of minorities and people in precarious situations can have great difficulty maintaining optimal sleep habits,” says the Dr. Ana Fernández ArcosCoordinator of the Sleep and Wakefulness Disorders Study Group of the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN).

Sleep disorders

There are nearly 100 classified sleep disorders and, in addition, there are many people who live with diseases that, due to their symptoms, interfere with good rest. insomniadefined as the difficulty falling or staying asleep despite having good conditions to do so, It is the most prevalent sleep disorder in Spain. It affects approximately 20% of the population and has consequences that go beyond nocturnal discomfort, since impacts physical and emotional health of those who suffer from it. Another common sleep disorder in Spain is obstructive sleep apnea, which affects 5-7% of the population and is characterized by causing pauses in breathing during sleep, interfering with rest and increasing the long-term risk of suffering from vascular diseases (such as stroke), diabetes and other serious health problems. Besides, Between 5-10% of Spaniards suffer from restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition that is manifested by unpleasant sensations in the extremities that appear in the evening or during the night and at rest. and causes an irresistible urge to move them during rest, which hinders the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep properly.

“Although problems such as insomnia, sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome are the most common sleep disorders in Spain, there are many others that not only affect the quality of life of people who suffer from them, but can also have consequences on the development of diseases in the future,” says Dr. Fernández Arcos. “Sleep is essential for health. Mainly for the brain health, because poor sleep influences memory and learning and increases the risk of developing neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or cerebrovascular disease. But it has also been linked to an increased risk of metabolic disorders, infections or premature mortality. To which we must also add its involvement in many accidents at work or while driving. Furthermore, patients with neurological diseases are more susceptible to sleep disorders and require more attention to detect and treat them correctly, given that a good rest will impact their quality of life and the prognosis of the disease.”

A rising problem

According to data from the SEN, More than 4 million Spaniards suffer from some type of chronic and serious sleep disorder and the World Sleep Society estimates that at least 45% of the world’s population will suffer from a serious sleep disorder at some point. But despite the high prevalence of sleep disorders, the health implications, and the fact that most sleep disorders can be prevented or treated, Less than a third of people who suffer from them consult their doctor. The SEN estimates that only 10% of total cases have been diagnosed in Spain.

“Although sleep disorders are common, they are not always properly diagnosed or treated. Many sufferers feel they have to settle and do not seek medical attention even though they experience persistent sleep problems. In days like today, it is essential to increase public awareness about sleep disorders, call for increased resources for better education in sleep habits, and promote early detection and access to treatments for sleep disorders. Because only in this way can we address this problem in a comprehensive manner, improve the quality of life of those who suffer from it and, above all, improve the health of the population in general,” highlights Dr. Fernández Arcos.


Although the SEN recognizes that in recent years there has been an increase in awareness about the importance of sleep and sleep disorders in Spain, it is still necessary to make efforts to improve sleep hygiene, since regardless of whether Whether it is a sleep disorder or not, the Spanish population does not rest adequately. The SEN estimates that 48% of the Spanish adult population and 25% of the child population do not have quality sleep. Furthermore, the latest studies carried out in this regard indicate that at least 50% of the population has problems falling asleep and 32% wake up with the feeling of not having had a restful sleep.

Therefore, another of the messages that we want to convey on this World Sleep Day is that “healthy” sleep is having good sleeping habits. There are six factors that affect sleep health and, therefore, overall health and well-being: duration (how much we sleep throughout the day), efficiency (how long it takes us to fall asleep and whether we stay asleep without waking up) , the timing (when we sleep), the regularity (maintaining stable sleep and wake-up schedules), the degree of alertness (if we are able to focus and maintain attention during waking hours) and the quality (if our sleep is restful) .

“Having good sleeping habits means trying to sleep enough hours according to our age, maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoid factors or elements that may alter our sleep such as copious dinners, substances such as alcohol and tobacco, stress, the use of cell phones or computers in the moments before going to bed, or the duration of naps, which should not exceed 30 minutes. On the other hand, taking care of the environment where we sleep, in the dark and in silence, and leading a healthy life, trying to do regular physical exercise, is also part of good sleep hygiene that can serve, in many cases, to improve the quality of our rest,” advises Dr. Fernández Arcos. “Finally, remember that, although experiencing occasional changes in sleep is normal, anyone who cannot have a restful sleep, despite improving their habits, should consult their doctor.”