Welcome to Tip #5 of our Newsletter Series, How to Make Healthy Living a Lifestyle – and for setting you up for a Successful New Year. This week I am talking about sleep…
As an adult, especially one that has small children, who doesn’t want [or need!] to sleep more?! Unless you are one of the rare few that go to bed at 10pm on the dot, and then wake up at 6am, then you most likely aren’t getting the full 7-8 hours that you need. You probably know this – thanks to the bags under your eyes and your constant need for another cup of coffee.
But, did you know that not sleeping enough can have more harmful side-effects then just feeling sleepy and can drain both your mental abilities and put your physical health at serious risk as well?! In fact, it can lead to some pretty devastating consequences, the least of which may be your moodiness. Repetitive lack of sleep can literally lead to such things as paranoia, heart attacks and strokes?!
[And while the effects are obviously different on young children, they too can see some pretty nasty side-effects of not sleeping enough, so please keep this in mind while you are reading the following.]
Here are 8 reasons why you need to get more sleep, starting tonight:
1) Immune Suppression
Do you ever feel like you are coming down with something the same time that you realize you haven’t been sleeping well for the past couple of nights? That’s because your immune system works the hardest while you sleep, producing protective, infection-fighting substances like cytokines. Furthermore, lack of sleep means your body may not be able to fend off invaders, and it may also take you longer to recover from illness. Long-term sleep deprivation also increases your risk for chronic illnesses, which leads to #2 below:
2) Chronic Illnesses
Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems (due to your immune system being suppressed as mentioned above), and even put you at risk for:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
In fact, studies have said that 90% of people with insomnia (a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep) also have another health condition.
3) No Sex Drive
Sleep specialists report that sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex. This is often due to depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension. However, many of these men have also been tested to have lower testosterone levels, especially those who suffer from sleep apnea, a respiratory problem that interrupts sleep.
4) Wrinkly, Aging Skin
Yes, we all have experienced the infamous puffy eyes after a few nights of missed sleep, but did you know that chronic sleep loss can also lead to dull looking skin, fine lines, and dark circles under your eyes? This is because lack of sleep causes your
body to release more of the stress hormone cortisol, which in excess amounts, can break down skin collagen (the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic). Sleep loss also causes the body to release too little human growth hormone, which as we age, helps increase muscle mass, thicken skin, and strengthen bones.
5) Gain Weight
We’ve all felt “more hungry” when we sleep less, but do you know why? Shortened sleep time is associated with two peptides that regulate appetite: ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and leptin, which signals satiety to the brain. When you don’t get adequate sleep, ghrelin in increased and leptin is decreased, literally telling your brain you haven’t eaten enough – causing the snacking to ensue. Lack of sleep also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. In fact, according to a recent study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours.
6) Mental & Physical Abilities
The central nervous system is the information highway of your body and sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly. If you don’t sleep enough, the pathways that form between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain won’t connect properly. This is why your brain will [literally] feel exhausted and not be able to perform its everyday duties. It can also make it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things, and may even decrease your coordination skills and increase your risks for accidents.
Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to similar symptoms as depression. In fact, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours a night.
Moreover, insomnia and depression feed on each other. Sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep. On the positive side, treating sleep problems can help depression and its symptoms, and vice versa. Similarly, lack of sleep can also affect other areas of your emotional state (see #10 below).
8) Emotional State
Feeling extra impatient or prone to mood swings? Lack of sleep may be to blame. Hello new mom! Yes, we all feel this every now and again, but did you know that if sleep deprivation continues for long enough, you could start having hallucinations (aka, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)! A lack of sleep can also trigger mania in people who have manic depression, or even cause other psychological problems including:
- impulsive behavior
- suicidal thoughts
And stay tuned for next week’s Newsletter where I continue to help you make healthy living a lifestyle! And if you missed last week’s Tip (about sneaking in more exercise), CONTACT US for the Newsletter, or check out the article on our BLOG.