Sleep is essential. We need to sleep for our bodies to function and be healthy; however, when it comes to our health, we often deprioritize our sleep. We get five hours, and we think that’s good enough. We can function with five hours and an energy drink. Or we can always catch up on the weekend, right? Wrong.
To receive health benefits from sleep, we need consistency. To be healthy you need at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night - not a combination of seven to nine hours from two nights. Lack of sleep can cause problems ranging from irritability all the way to the increased probability of heart disease. The occasional all-nighter or bout of insomnia will not negatively affect your health, but if you are regularly getting little to no sleep, you should change your sleeping habits or see a doctor. I know we are a society that runs on coffee; however, caffeine is not a replacement for sleep.
If you are lacking sleep, you’re probably feeling sleepy, irritable and fatigued. These are the most obvious and immediate symptoms. When we do not get enough sleep, we yawn throughout the day or we possibly fall asleep in our offices or in the classroom during a particularly boring lecture. We often feel like we desperately need a nap.
These signs can manifest within one night of missing sleep, but there are many long-term effects that not getting enough sleep can cause.
The Body and Brain
We often associate lack of sleep with being groggy and our minds feeling a bit foggy. We are forgetful or we cannot concentrate. These are the most obvious to us because they are symptoms we feel the next day. It is not just the body or the brain that is affected by lack of sleep, both can be negatively impacted and result in dire consequences for your health.
Sleepiness is an obvious symptom. When you lack hydration you are dehydrated so it makes sense that when you lack sleep you are sleepy; however, there are consequences to trying to function while being sleepy. One of the most dangerous of these consequences is the possibility of falling asleep throughout the day without realizing it. At best you might spill your coffee on yourself or fall asleep during your child’s recital, and at worst you might die. It seems a bit drastic, right?
But getting around five hours of sleep can almost double your likelihood of getting into an automobile accident. You fall asleep at the wheel, you might end up in a ditch. Do not try to drive if you are lacking sleep - it is a danger to both you and other drivers on the road.
Many hormones are produced while we are sleeping - this includes leptin and ghrelin. The hormone leptin decreases how hungry you feel, while the hormone ghrelin increases how hungry you feel, according to the National Institute of Health. These two particular hormones being imbalanced can lead to obesity. Leptin might not be produced while ghrelin is which results in you overeating because your body is not sending the correct signals to your brain. Furthermore, studies have shown that lack of sleep can make your body to become insulin resistant resulting in increased chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
There is no direct correlation between lack of sleep and heart disease. Missing a few nights of sleep will not automatically give you a heart attack; however, studies have shown that that lack of sleep can increase your risk factors for developing heart disease. Your blood pressure lowers while you are sleeping, so when you do not get a certain amount of sleep, your blood pressure is not staying low long enough. High blood pressure often leads to heart issues. Prolonged sleep deprivation is also linked to irregular heartbeat which, again, can lead to heart issues, according to this article from Science Daily.
While we sleep, our skin is rebuilding and rejuvenating itself. Sleeping gives your skin a break from sun and element exposure along with allowing it to create new collagen. It also increases your blood flow and lessens the appearance of dark circles. We have all lacked sleep at some point, and we know looking in the mirror that our skin can appear lifeless and the dark circles under our eyes could probably have their own area code they are so big.
Our body is not the only thing affected by sleeping less; our minds and mental health are also at risk. We know the obvious signs - we feel irritable, we cannot concentrate as well and we become forgetful. If you suffer from depression, lack of sleep can trigger a depressive episode along with increasing the possibility of suicidal thoughts and paranoia. Your brain needs rest, and if you are not sleeping, your brain does not get that chance, and ends up facing all sorts of other issues.
The biggest tip that I can give you to make sure that you have the right amount of sleep is to make sure that your bedroom is equipped for the most comfortable night of sleep possible. This means having the correct temperature, a soothing environment, relaxing bedding, and the appropriate mattress and/or pillow. For me, having a memory foam pillow changed my life and made all of the difference in getting better and more meaningful sleep. For a list of the top memory foam pillows in 2017, check out this helpful article from Sleep Advisor.