Sleep - a critical cornerstone of lifestyle change

Sleep affects every aspect of our bodies, from the brain to physical performance. Because of its holistic nature, its importance in lifestyle change is undeniable. Eevert Partinen, a doctor and a sleep specialist at Terveystalo, explains how sleep is linked to key lifestyle diseases and how it affects our daily activities.

Science strongly supports the argument that sleep is an essential component of health and well-being. Maintaining motivation for lifestyle change, making healthy choices and managing long-term health risks all require good sleep. For the majority of adults, adequate sleep needs are around 7-9 hours per day.

During sleep, the body repairs the damage done during the day and replenishes energy stores ready for the next day. When making lifestyle changes, adequate sleep provides the energy to change behaviours and maintain the new habit," says Partinen.

Research* shows that sleep has a significant impact on our well-being and our efforts to maintain healthier lifestyles, both in terms of motivation and metabolism.

When we are sleep deprived, we are understimulated and our energy levels are lower. The body is on a 'maintenance state' and we can only perform the activities we need to do. We don't have the energy to sustain the change and the motivation to adopt a healthy lifestyle," Partinen advises.

Sleep deprivation predisposes to lifestyle diseases linked to metabolic disorders

Sleep quality also affects mental health, stress management and mental well-being. A poor night's sleep can lead to emotional decisions that are impulsive and inappropriate.

If our brains are not sufficiently rested, they cannot control impulses and the neurotransmitters and hormones that influence appetite are altered. It has been found that when tired, we eat up to 350-500 calories more than after a good night's sleep. Prolonged sleep deprivation therefore predisposes people to unhealthy eating habits and the resulting cravings can lead to weight gain of up to 5-10 kilos a year," says Partinen.

When tired or stressed, the body's immune defence system is weakened because all the energy is used to maintain alertness.

Sleep deprivation has been found to weaken immunity by up to a third of what it is after a good night's sleep. Even sleeping poorly or too little for 5-7 days weakens blood sugar balance and raises stress hormones.  This is how sleep deprivation ultimately predisposes to type 2 diabetes.  Conversely, a well-slept night balances blood sugar levels, which lowers the risk of diabetes," says Partinen.

Sleep deprivation also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease directly by increasing the body's inflammatory factors and indirectly by raising blood pressure.

Coaching for effective help with sleep problems

Sleep problems are a fairly common challenge for today's working age population and naturally affect people's work performance and thus the productivity of their work in the organisation. In addition to the benefits for the individual, the investment in good sleep also pays off for companies in terms of increased productivity and reduced sickness absence due to sleep problems.

Insomnia can be caused by a number of factors. And sleep problems are rarely the only reason people seek treatment. It is important to first make sure that there is no underlying medical condition that requires treatment, and then, with the help of a sleep coach, find ways to improve sleep quality without medication," Partinen advises.

Currently, the most impressive international results in the treatment of sleep problems have been achieved with sleep coaching based on cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT-I), which is also used at Terveystalo. Through this drug-free treatment for insomnia, patients learn skills that they can use independently to improve their sleep quality in the long term.

In Finland, we have around 200 sleep coaches specialised in drug-free treatments for insomnia, who can provide support for sleep-related questions or problems. Many of the sleep coaches are also occupational health professionals, so they can take a broader view of sleep problems, including possible work-related factors that affect sleep quality, and find solutions to support better sleep and work capacity," Partinen says.

Articles in scientific releases
* Does sleep affect immunity?

* The role of sleep deprivation in the risk of immune-related diseases

Read more occupational health articles

True or false: sleep deprivation causes more road accidents than alcohol Article

True or false: sleep deprivation causes more road accidents than alcohol

True. There is also less awareness of the risk of accidents caused by sleep deprivation, which makes driving while tired insidiously dangerous. What level of drunkenness is equivalent to one night's sleep? Matleena Näppilä, occupational health physician at Terveystalo.

Mies ja kaksi naista ovat kahvitauolla ja nauravat Article

The same friendship phenomena are repeated in workplaces as in schools for children

We want to feel accepted and seen as ourselves, whether we are children or adults. With a best friend, this can feel stronger than in a large group, but in the workplace, heart-to-heart friendships can also pose challenges.

Terveystalo´s new centre of transport medicine promotes professional drivers' work ability Article

Terveystalo´s new centre of transport medicine promotes professional drivers' work ability

The transport and logistics sector is a major employer in long-distance Finland. Ensuring the well-being and fitness for work of professional drivers requires special knowledge of their needs and the nature of their work, which is why Terveystalo is now establishing a multi-professional centre for transport medicine to serve the transport and logistics sector. The new centre aims to find ways to address the main health risks for professional drivers, which are associated with musculoskeletal and lifestyle diseases.

Ari Väänänen, kuvaaja Annukka Pakarinen Article

Terveystalo develops new approaches to mental health care with support from the Finnish Research Impact Foundation

Ari Väänänen, Research Professor at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, has received a Tandem Industry Academia Professor (TIA) grant from the Finnish Research Impact Foundation to work with Terveystalo to explore new approaches to mental health research using machine learning models and diverse data sets. The research, which will run from 2024-2026, will also shed light on the differentiated contexts of mental health in which different groups of workers operate and construct their work capacity. Based on an exceptionally large dataset, this multidisciplinary research will provide fresh data that will be widely exploitable.

AI learns to predict mental health diagnoses, results can be used for prevention Article

AI learns to predict mental health diagnoses, results can be used for prevention

Artificial intelligence learned to identify traits that can predict a future mental health diagnosis from responses to an occupational health questionnaire assessing health and wellbeing, according to a study by Terveystalo and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The finding sheds light on the potential of AI in identifying and preventing mental health problems.

Embarking on a new lifestyle - how do I do it? Article

Embarking on a new lifestyle - how do I do it?

Who among us hasn't at least once in our lives decided to start a new habit and slipped back into the old one within a few days or weeks? Changing an already routine habit is difficult and requires active work. Sari Nuikki, an occupational health psychologist at Terveystalo, explains the anatomy of change and how quickly new lifestyles become habitual.