Sleep deprivation is a condition that can cause fatigue, sleepiness during the day or extreme weight loss or weight gain.
Getting plenty of sleep is equally important for good health as eating quality food and exercising.
Lifestyles in the modern Western world have taken a toll on sleep habits. People sleep fewer hours each night than they did in past times, and overall quality of sleep has been negatively impacted by environment.
Here are seven reasons why sleep deprivation could be ruining your life:
1. Sleep Deprivation Can Lead to Increased Appetite and Weight Gain
Children who are chronically short on sleep are at an even higher risk for developing obesity than adults.
In a massive review of multiple studies, data indicated that children are 89% more likely to become obese when they don’t get enough down time. Adult rates for obesity ran at 55%. (3)
Fatigue can decrease motivation to exercise, and hormonal changes related to the lack of sleep are two factors believed to influence weight gain.
Sleep deprivation jacks up levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, stimulating appetite when the real problem is not enough rest. Leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, is present at lower levels for the sleep-deprived. (4, 5)
If you’re not sleeping enough, you’re likely to have a bigger appetite and eat more calories during the day.
2. Decreases Cognitive Performance
Concentration and productivity are improved when the body and brain have been rested. (6)
Medical interns are known for running on very little sleep; one study compared the performance of interns operating on a traditional schedule to those who worked schedules allowing them more sack time.
Interns who slept less made 36% more serious medical errors than the ones who slept more. (7)
Another study measured the negative effects of sleep deprivation on brain function in comparison to the way alcohol intoxication affects thinking processes, finding the two had similar effects. (8)
3. Your Body Performs Worse
Researchers studied the athletic performance of basketball players in relation to sleep habits, and results indicated those who got adequate sleep could react and move faster, incorporated greater level accuracy in the game, and enjoyed a higher level of mental wellbeing. (11)
A study with nearly 3000 older women indicated a lack of sleep resulted in functional limitations during exercise, as well as poor overall performance. Not only did the women walk more slowly, but they couldn’t grip as well, and weren’t as good at following through with independent activities. (12)
4. Raises the Risk of Developing Chronic Diseases
The length and quality of sleep you get can have a significant effect on a number of risk factors for developing chronic diseases.
An analysis of 15 separate studies showed that people who slept 7 to 8 hours each night were much less likely to suffer a stroke or be diagnosed with heart disease than those who spent less time in bed. (13)
When healthy young men were only allowed to sleep four hours each night for six nights in a row, they developed signs of pre-diabetes. Insulin levels returned to normal after a full week of adequate sleep. (16)
5. Increases Inflammation Levels
The loss of sleep has been clearly linked with increased inflammation, activating undesirable markers and measuring both cell damage and inflammation.
Patients diagnosed with Crohn’s disease suffer twice the rates of relapse when they’re sleep-deprived. (21)
Medical evaluations to predict long-term outcomes for patients diagnosed with inflammatory diseases may take information about quality and duration of sleep into consideration in the future. (22)
6. Decreases Your Immune System
Even the loss of a few hours of sleep can negatively impact immune system function, making you more vulnerable to bacteria and other pathogens in your environment. (23)
During a two-week study, more than 150 healthy participants were given nasal drops containing the virus that causes the common cold.
Subjects who slept seven hours or less each night came down with colds at three times the rate of those who spent eight hours or more between the sheets. (24)
If you’re catching a cold often, try adding some extra sleep time.
7. Increases Depression
Depression and other mental health challenges have been strongly associated with sleep deprivation and poor quality sleep.
Nine out of ten patients being treated for depression say they don’t get enough good sleep. (25)
Death by suicide occurs more frequently with patients who report poor sleep habits. (26)
Subjects being treated for obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia suffer depression at a much higher rate than people who get adequate sleep. (27)
The ability to interact with others is also impacted by a lack of quality sleep; researchers say we’re more likely to miss important social cues and are not able to process emotional information as well when we are tired.
We may not be as alert to facial expressions indicating anger or happiness, resulting in blunders or misinterpretation of information normally gathered from watching others during conversation. (28, 29)
Many people working to improve health focus mostly on nutrition and exercise. It’s absolutely necessary to consider these vital components, but sleep is often sacrificed in the interest of fitting it all in.
Leading a full life can be stimulating and exciting, but if you don’t get enough sleep, you may be sabotaging yourself on other levels.
Summary: Sleep deprivation sucks. Schedule and protect your down time to make sure you’re at the top of your game physically and mentally. You’ll be faster, smarter, happier, and more socially adept, as well as less likely to catch a cold or be diagnosed with something more serious.