Stressing about the amount of sleep you get may be counterproductive, but some nights I can’t help but toss and turn, thinking about how miserable I’ll be in the morning if I don’t get the eight—now seven, now six, now four—hours of sleep that I know I need to be on top of my game in the morning.
Getting the recommended amount of sleep may not seem like something worth worrying about, but anxiety over insomnia isn’t completely unfounded.
More sleep studies are confirming the importance of deep, restful sleep and revealing that sleep deprivation, especially over an extended period of time, can actually cause serious long-term harm to your health.
Are you suffering from any of the following issues? Address your sleeping habits now to combat the negative effects of sleep deprivation.
It might seem like a good idea to sacrifice a few precious hours of shut-eye to get that extra mile in, or make sure you keep up a rigid exercise regime, but you could actually be making it harder for yourself to maintain a healthy physique. Numerous studies have shown that lack of sleep causes the body to increase the production of the hormone ghrelin, which causes you to feel hunger [1-3].
A review of sleep studies done by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asserts that consistent sleep deprivation actually puts a person at higher risk of stroke, even without other risk factors, such as a family history or obesity.
According to studies done by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a link was found between poor sleep and insulin resistance. Another study further showed that some cells could actually become more resistant to insulin when the body was deprived of sleep.
Most of us probably know by now that dreaming is our mind’s way of sorting through and storing our memories. So it makes sense that when we don’t dream because we don’t sleep, we don’t remember or store new memories quite as well. But a study done in 2014 actually suggests that sleep deprivation can cause more serious brain deterioration in the long term.
There is no evidence that lack of sleep will create cancer in your body, but it certainly won’t help to stop it, either. Cancer is a cellular mutation, and your immune system needs to be strong to fight that mutation. Our immune systems work best when we’ve slept, as the sleep cycle gives our bodies a chance to rejuvenate. So, naturally, a lack of sleep will weaken our immune systems and, subsequently, our defenses.
These are just a few of the more serious effects sleep deprivation can have on your health. A quick Google search can provide you with countless other health risks that prolonged sleep deprivation can have on your body. In fact, TIME reported on a study revealing that, over time, those who got less than six hours of sleep were actually more likely to die at a young age. And let’s not forget the poor chap who lost his life after working nearly 72 hours straight as an intern for Bank of America.
It’s hard—with our constantly changing, fast-paced society demanding more and more of our time and requiring more and more multitasking—to fit in a full night’s sleep and still get everything done. But should we really be prioritizing things above our own health?
It’s time we all start investing more in ourselves and our future health by getting the rest we need. I don’t know about you, but I think these risk factors are a great excuse to sleep in tomorrow.
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1. Meta-analysis of short sleep duration and obesity in children and adults,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18517032, 2008
2. Acute partial sleep deprivation increases food intake in healthy men, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20357041, 2010
3. Metabolic, Endocrine, and Immune Consequences of Sleep Deprivation, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3132857/, 2011