Sleep is the superpower we all have, but not enough of us use. It has the power to improve our mood, cure our illnesses and make our skin look flawless. Why then, are only a third of Americans getting enough? Sleep deprivation is at an all-time high. Intense social lives, demanding jobs and babies to look after, it’s all effecting our precious time in bed.
We all know that we should be prioritizing our pillow contact, but how does our health suffer when we sacrifice sleep to finish a project, finish another glass of wine or hit an early morning gym session? What does tiredness do to our body and is it worth the risk?
Getting enough z’s is vital to staying healthy and well. Throughout the night, your immune system produces substances such as cytokines to fight infections and help you sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, you become more susceptible to illnesses and your risk of diabetes and heart disease increases.
Sleepiness can shut down your ability to tolerate external irritations. You become impatient and prone to mood swings. More importantly though, your ability to concentrate and learn new things is compromised as your central nervous system (the information highway) becomes less effective. Your signals get out of sync which makes you clumsier and more prone to accidents. Not great when you accidentally drop the office teas on the floor.
Late nights are increasing our waistlines. Sleep affects two hormones that help us maintain our weight. Leptin, which controls our fullness, is decreased while ghrelin, an appetite stimulant, is increased. This combination of hormone fluctuation could explain all those late night snacks.
When you’re running on empty, higher levels of insulin, which controls your blood sugar level, are produced after you eat. This promotes fat storage and increases your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Sex drive killer
A poll from the National Sleep Foundation in 2008 found, 20% of respondents lost interest in sex because they were too sleepy. Not great news for any healthy sex life. It doesn’t take long to fix however, according to the study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine “a one hour increase in sleep length corresponded to a 14% increase in odds of engaging in partnered sexual activity”. Nap time it is then!
Sleep deprivation can have dire effects on your mental health, particularly anxiety and depression. The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, and depression feed on each other. Lack of sleep prompts depressive symptoms and depression can make it difficult to fall asleep, it’s a vicious circle that can be difficult to get out of. On a positive note, treating either depression or sleep problems can help reduce symptoms of the other one.
Ages your skin
A lack of sleep does more than just give us dark circles. Constantly missing hours can cause fine lines, sallow skin and lackluster skin due to an increase in the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. It can break down skin collagen which is the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.
In general, a few nights missed here and there won’t have any long term ramifications on your health. Nonetheless, ensure you get at least 7 hours sleep a night and make your sleep schedule as consistent as possible. Your body will thank you.
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