Sleep is a critical function of everyday life. Our bodies and our brains just need us to stop and rest. In fact, if we’re doing it right, about one-third of our lives are spent in sleep. And even though we are lying there, looking as if we aren’t doing anything, those hours that we spend sleeping are vital in order for us to be able to function for the other two-thirds of the time that we are awake.
Some researchers estimate that more than 70 million adults in the United States suffer from some sort of sleeping disorder. This caused the CDC to label sleep deprivation as a public health epidemic as recently as 2014. Most of us know that sleep is necessary for health and function, but many of us don’t really take the warnings very seriously as we continue on with our lives without really thinking about our need for sleep.
Have you ever really thought about the fact that being deprived of sleep can actually make you chronically ill?
Lack of Sleep Effects on Health
The health of a human is most impacted by healthy diet, regular exercise, and sleep. And the three are inextricably intertwined. When you don’t sleep well, you don’t have the energy to exercise, make good decisions about what you will eat, or prepare healthy meals. Eating well and exercising are critical parts of living a healthy lifestyle, and both of these aspects are dependent on your ability to sleep well at night.
Sleep deprivation causes the mood to lower and is likely to impact not only the physical health but mental health as well. Your memory, mental stability, work performance, and reactions times may all be restricted even after just one night of bad sleep. But more than just being groggy, in a bad mood, or lacking in brain power, people who are missing out on good sleep habits are at a much higher risk of serious health problems.
8 Notable Lack of Sleep Health Problems
The human body is carefully balanced and must be restored daily. When sleep deprivation happens, it can throw everything out of balance. Here are some of the most common health problems that may be related to lack of sleep, insomnia, or other chronic sleeping disorders:
1. Reduced Immunity
Your immune system is the way that your body fights off disease and illness. Each night while you sleep your body is busy producing important substances that fight off viruses and bacteria. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body is unable to restore cytokines and other immunity defenders, essentially opening you up to an increased risk of succumbing to germs when you are exposed to them.
2. Poor Appetite Control
While your body appears to be doing very little at night while you are sleeping, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes. Critical hormones are produced in the brain during sleep that impact the way your body responds to hunger and food. Leptin is a hormone that communicates to your body that you have eaten enough. It controls your sense of being ‘full’.
Ghrelin is a substance produced by the brain that stimulates the appetite. When you suffer from lack of proper sleep, your brain does not release these chemicals in appropriate levels. This can lead to increased hunger levels, less willpower to say no to snacking, and ultimately has the tendency to lead to gaining weight and/or becoming obese. And obesity also leads to a variety of difficult health issues.
3. Heart Health Risk
Another function that happens while you sleep is the healing and repairing within the cardiovascular system. High blood pressure may be one way your body responds to sleep deprivation. Your heart and blood vessels are less healthy if you don’t sleep enough, increasing the potential risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.
4. Hormone Imbalance
Many different hormones are directly impacted by the amount of sleep that a person gets. Testosterone, a hormone which helps to build muscle mass, requires at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep in order to be produced. Human Growth Hormone, which directly impacts growth and repair of tissues and cells, is produced during sleep making it particularly critical for children, adolescents, and young adults.
5. Insulin Levels
People who don’t get enough sleep are prompted by their brains to release higher levels of insulin into the body upon eating. As insulin is the substance the controls the blood sugar, higher levels of this can be dangerous in increasing weight gain as well as placing you at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
6. Lowered Fertility
People who are struggling to have a baby are especially in need of regular, healthy sleep patterns. Regular disruptions to sleep have been shown to reduce the secretion of reproductive hormones in both men and women, possibly making it more difficult to conceive.
7. Decreased Libido
Possibly related to lowered fertility, people who are sleep deprived have a decreased sex drive. This may be due to a lowered amount of testosterone production, or simply from an overall lack of energy and general health.
8. Increased Risk of Accidents
Everyone knows that sleep deprivation make you tired and puts you at risk of accidents in which you are operating heavy machinery, such as a car. But it also just makes you clumsy and put you off balance. Your coordination is impaired when you don’t get enough sleep, making you more likely to stumble, fall, or hurt yourself in other ways.
Today’s culture is fast-paced and our attention is demanded and pulled in so many different directions. But if we want to be able to enjoy our lives to the fullest and live in a healthy manner, then we can start by getting enough sleep! Planning to get enough sleep at night isn’t just for children. It’s part of living in a way that will keep your body strong, protect you from disease and illness, and allow you to enjoy your life to the fullest.
Now, go get some shut-eye!