9 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Aren't Getting Enough Sleep

Date April 2, 2018 17:07

Good sleep is just as important for your health as eating well, exercising, drinking enough water, and breathing fresh air. On the other hand, cutting back on sleep can lead to all sorts of health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, in the long run.

Lack of sleep can be caused by insomnia (inability to sleep), which is a serious medical problem that needs to be addressed. But in many cases, people deliberately deprive themselves of sleep because they think they have "more important things to do". One sleepless night is unlikely to lead to serious consequences, but its effects become apparent the next day. These include low mood, irritability, inability to concentrate, and craving sugary and fatty foods, to name a few. Imagine what can happen if lack of sleep becomes a pattern...

Are you getting enough sleep? You can find it out by answering a few questions:

  • Is it hard for you to wake up without an alarm clock?
  • If an alarm clock is what wakes you up, do you hit the snooze button often?
  • Have you changed your morning routine just to get a little more extra sleep?
  • Do you feel drowsy throughout the day?

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If the answer is "yes" to all of those, you need to start getting more sleep. Adults need 8 hours of sleep a night on average. Some can get by with just 7 hours of sleep, while others may need the full 9 hours to feel rested. So, to stay healthy, you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. If you are getting less than that, you may start to experience the consequences of sleep deprivation pretty soon.

Below, we outline nine ill effects of not sleeping enough.

1. Lack of sleep is linked to depression and anxiety

It's not clear if it's sleep deprivation that causes depression and anxiety, or if it's the other way around. But what we know for sure is that sleep deprivation can make anxiety and depression worse, and vice versa. So, if you are down in the dumps, anxious, and sleep-deprived, it's time to see your doctor. He or she may then refer you to a mental health specialist if nothing is wrong with you physically.

2. Lack of sleep impairs your memory

Lack of sleep can have a huge detrimental effect on your memory and learning ability. When you sleep, your brain processes what you have learned during the day and creates connections to store it in your memory. On the other hand, newly learned information will be lost if you don't sleep well. Those who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation perform worse on cognitive function tests than those who sleep well. What's worse, sleep deprivation may even contribute to Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.

3. Lack of sleep promotes weight gain

Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones that play a role in your eating behaviors. The former signals your brain that your body needs to eat, while the latter tells your brain to stop eating once you're full. Sleep deprivation can throw these two hormones off balance and make you prone to overeating and weight gain.

4. Lack of sleep increases the risk of accidents

Lack of sleep makes you less able to concentrate, and that may lead to accidents at your workplace or on the road. If you are seriously sleep-deprived, you can fall asleep behind the wheel or make a serious mistake when operating the equipment at work.

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5. Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system

If your immune system is functioning well, you won't catch the flu or cold every time you are exposed to one of the viruses. Adequate sleep supports the immune system, and if you aren't getting enough shut-eye, you may notice that you get respiratory infections more often than you used to. Lack of sleep can make your immune system less able to fight off any infections, not just colds and flu.

6. Lack of sleep can contribute to diabetes

Lack of sleep can interfere with the production of insulin, the key hormone that regulates your blood sugar levels. According to the United Kingdom's NHS, those who sleep only five hours a night or less are at a higher risk of developing diabetes.

7. Lack of sleep can impair fertility in both men and women

Not sleeping enough can interfere with the production of various hormones, and these include reproductive hormones necessary for conception.

8. Lack of sleep can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease

Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to elevated blood pressure and higher levels of chemicals associated with inflammation. Both high blood pressure and chronic inflammation can put you at risk of heart disease and life-threatening cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.

9. Lack of sleep can lead to premature skin aging

Dark circles under the eyes aren't the only effect that chronic lack of sleep has on your appearance. Lack of sleep can interfere with the production of collagen, a protein which keeps your skin elastic, smooth, and well-toned. So, not getting enough sleep can lead to wrinkled and saggy skin.

To lower your risk of various health issues listed above, start getting enough sleep NOW. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, talk to your doctor, and he or she will help determine the cause of your sleeplessness.

Source: NHS UK, HealthLine, WebMD

READ ALSO: When Life Is Too Overwhelming: 8 Signs That It’s Time To Seek Therapy

This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.