We hear about it all the time and try our best to do it. But getting close to eight hours of sleep every night just doesn’t seem possible when you become an adult. Most of us are constantly depending on caffeine to keep us going. Others opt for pills, exercise or anything they can get their hands on. It almost feels normal to not sleep enough these days, wouldn’t you say? But just how bad is sleep deprivation for your body?
As I sit here and write this right now I am cranky, tired and low on energy. So I decided to just do a quick search on just how much damage we do to our bodies by not getting enough quality shut eye. Here is what I found.
Sleep deprivation will make you get sick
It’s a no brainer than when you are sick, the best thing to do is boost your immune system with vitamins and nourishment and get lots of rest. What you may not know is that not sleeping enough can actually induce sickness! This happens by weakening your immune system and reducing your body’s ability to combat simple viruses that your white blood cells would normally demolish. If you have any underlying conditions, your body’s reaction could actually be worse from the lack of sleep. Being a working mom, I have noticed that my immune system has reduced significantly since having a baby. Guess what’s to blame? You got it, sleep deprivation and toddler germs.
You lose your memory
Ever struggled to get through a work day and felt that your brain was foggy after a rough night? It wasn’t in your head! Lack of sleep actually triggers your brain to focus on the most essential functions to get you through the day. This essentially means that it will expend less energy on others functions, including thinking. Does this mean sleep deprivation makes you dumb?
When you’re asleep, your brain also works on forming new connections that help you process and store new information, so skipping a few hours of rest could impair this process and make you remember less. If you’re a student, this information is golden and should let you know that it isn’t a great idea to pull all-nighters before an exam. Unless of course you don’t need to retain much information! The scary part is that the effects are not just short term. You can actually cause lasting damage to your memory in the long term!
Sleep deprivation reduces your sex drive
Sorry kids, this one isn’t for you… But for any married or seriously committed folk out there, it’s an interesting one to note! For men, insufficient sleep can significantly reduce the levels of testosterone. While they may not suddenly get boobs and a high pitched voice, the ‘sex drive’ loses steam. Unfortunately for our male counterparts, the drop in testosterone also has other negative impacts including difficulty putting on muscle mass. It also increases the probability of weight gain, increased chances of developing heart problems, type 2 diabetes and strokes.
You will gain weight
Did you know that your gut health is directly linked to your cognitive functioning? This makes perfect sense because your brain is also responsible for the release of certain hormones that signal when you are full (leptin) as well as when you are hungry (ghrelin). When you don’t get enough rest, your brain goes loony and struggles to regulate the production of these hormones. This results in that peckish feeling when you aren’t actually hungry.
On top of that, your insulin production decreases which makes it harder for your body to reduce its blood sugar levels. The other thing that directly impacts your weight is the lack of energy. When you don’t sleep enough, you don’t feel energetic enough to get some exercise, pair that with the imbalance of hormones and you have a breeding ground for undesired weight gain. So if you want to lose weight, try sleeping!
You will get very anxious
I’ve known this to be true and assumed that it was linked to my increased caffeine consumption following nights of little to no sleep. But what I found particularly interesting – or scary rather – is the impact sleep deprivation has on your mental health. Some of the most common side effects of not sleeping include mood changes, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD. Scary isn’t it? This happens mainly due to a chemical imbalance in your brain that may need to be regulated or treated with prescribed medication.
There have been several studies on the effects of sleep on mental health, and one particularly interesting outcome was that those with a predisposition for certain mental health issues generally had the symptoms worsen significantly when sleeping less. You can try having caffeine or listening to good music but the buildup effect will affect your mental health. If that isn’t scary, I don’t know what is!
So what can you do?
Now that we have established that sleep deprivation isn’t a good thing, what can we do to improve our sleep? Here are some simple tips that may improve your quality of sleep :
- Establish a bedtime routine
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Stop using electronics at least 1 hour before bed
- Stop all caffeine intake after 3pm
- Drink relaxing teas (camomile, rose petals, etc)
- Use a diffuser and/or an air purifier
- Limit exercise to yoga and stretching within 2 hours of sleeping
- Take relaxing baths before bed
- Eat a high protein, low carb meal for dinner
- Stop eating 2 hours before bedtime
- Use your bedroom for sleep only
Are there any thing on this list that you have tried and like? What else would you recommend?