Six hours of sleep never feels like enough sleep – and research suggests that it’s not. “Are you getting at least eight hours of sleep?” We hear this question all the time from our parents, doctors, and teachers, but we still manage not to get enough sleep. We’re aware of the negative side effects of poor sleep, but we still fail to prioritize it.
Usually, when the day gets busy and we feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do what we need to do, quality sleep is the first sacrifice we make. I'm guilty of this myself. I work nights, and adapting to a regular schedule outside of my work hours means I must sacrifice my sleep to adjust to the day or run my errands. Or so I tell myself. In fact, according to the CDC, more than one-third of Americans don't get enough sleep.
Not getting quality sleep can weaken your immune system, lower your sex drive, make it harder to think straight, ages your skin, and leads to weight gain. Lack of sleep is literally making us fat, sick, inflamed, and imbalanced. If you find yourself in the one-third category, it’s time to realize that the first thing you should do is prioritize sleep. We’d all love to be the sleepless hustler who works like a maniac, pushes hard at the gym, goes out on weekends, and always feels great on only five hours of sleep.
Newsflash: This person doesn’t exist, and if you know someone like this, they’re heading for burnout. Your brain does allow you to feel sleepy sometimes, but trying to block that feeling with caffeine will short-circuit a lot of important warning signs of sleep deprivation. These include;
Lack of sleep can cause you to pack on the pounds. In one study in 2004, people who slept less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese compared to those who slept seven to nine hours. Another study of 21,469 adults over the course of three years showed that people who slept less than 5 hours were more likely to gain weight and eventually become obese. One reason weight gain is associated with lack of sleep is that shortened sleep time decreases leptin and elevates ghrelin, the hormones responsible for hunger and satiety in the brain.
Sleep now, or forever hold your peace. Have you found yourself running around like crazy and suddenly finding yourself sick? That's your immune system taking revenge. Think of it as sleep debt. You’ve overdrawn your bank account, and it’s time to pay your dues. Lack of sleep decreases the production of cytokines, important substances that help you sleep and combat foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
Lack of sleep can cause brain fog that impairs mental clarity and causes poor concentration. For me, a brain fog sometimes feels like I'm dreaming, watching the world from the outside, looking in. According to research, sleep deprivation disrupts our brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other, which leads to temporary mental lapses that affect memory and perception. No wonder a tired driver is more prone to getting into an accident – their sleep-deprived brain takes longer to register what they’re seeing.
I hope you’re starting to understand how important sleep is. Over time, a sleep disorder can contribute to symptoms of depression. It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from sleep and wakefulness disorders that hinder their daily function and adversely affect their health and longevity. The most common sleep disorder is insomnia, which is often the first sign of depression.
If all these health risks don’t convince you to get more sleep, then do it for your looks! For one, missing out on sleep disrupts lowering of cortisol levels, which happens naturally while we sleep. Persistent lack of sleep will lead to higher cortisol levels, which can mess up our body’s ability to heal itself. It also promotes acne. Your skin gets stressed out, too. Cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps our skin smooth and elastic.
Lack of sleep can lead to lower energy, fatigue, and sleepiness, which correlates to libido and less interest in sex. Mood researchers believe that this is the result of the low energy and increased tension caused by lack of sleep. And then there’s sleep apnea, a respiratory problem that interrupts sleep and is a factor in reduced sex drive. A study in 2011 showed that the daytime testosterone levels of young men who slept 5 hours a night over a one-week period decreased by as much as 10 to 15 percent. Sleep apnea affects 15% of the US working population.
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