If you sleep then you’re lazy. Or so we have been led to believe. But, if you get a decent amount of quality sleep, you are anything but lazy in your waking hours. And those who don’t sleep are set to gain a whole load of problems than those who do. Its time to start paying more attention to your sleep.
Regularly sleeping for less than 6 hours can shorten your life expectancy and lead to a sleep debt you really don’t want1https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/7677812/People-who-sleep-for-less-than-six-hours-die-early.html. And before you click away and stop reading, don’t think this doesn’t apply to you because you are functioning just fine. Whether you know it or not, there are several ways less than 6 hours of good sleep a night can seriously harm your health2 https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/3https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-lose-sleep.
1. Your immunity lowers
Do you get every cough and cold going around and generally feeling run down?
Not getting enough quality sleep reduces your body’s ability to fight off those nasty bugs. If that’s not a good enough reason right there to prioritise your sleep, I don’t know what is — feeling better right now.
2. You gain weight
If you don’t get enough sleep, it’s thought that the levels of leptin that make you feel full are reduced. This is also made worse by the levels of ghrelin, which is the hormone that makes you feel hungry, as they increase. Add that double whammy to the fact that you’re also less able to make good decisions when you’re tired and your will power reduces. So that triple chocolate donut cookie freak shake that usually looks like it will make you feel sick (because it will) looks much better than that salmon salad. And before you know it, you’ve demolished it. Now you know why the grueling workout and healthy eating plan isn’t shifting those pounds.
3. Your mental wellbeing takes a dive
Aside from being grumpy and irritable when you’ve not had enough sleep, not sleeping enough over time can create a chronic sleep debt. This can lead to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. And then you can enter a vicious circle as it can be challenging to sleep well when you’re anxious or worried and need to sleep more.
4. You have a much higher risk of developing diabetes
When you are in a deep sleep, your body processes glucose which your body uses for energy. A study has suggested if you get less than 5 hours sleep and don’t get enough deep sleep, your body changes how it deals with glucose. This increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
5. Your sex drive decreases
Research shows that if you don’t get enough quality sleep, your libido lessens, and you have less interest in sex. Men who sleep less than 5 hours per night tend to have lower testosterone levels too. So spend more time in bed to, well, spend more time in bed!
6. You can develop heart disease
Sleep deprivation is associated with an increase in blood pressure, increased heart rate, and chemicals that are linked with inflammation. All this puts extra strain on your heart. So, allow your heart to do its thing effortlessly and get a decent amount of sleep.
7. Your fertility drops
Sleep disruption and sleep deprivation can reduce the secretion of reproductive hormones. This makes it difficult to conceive. Add this to point 5, and there’s very little going on between your sheets if you don’t get a decent amount of sleep.
8. Your decision-making ability is impaired
Research has shown that your cognitive flexibility, which is the ability to change your thinking when provided with new information, is reduced by sleep deprivation. Sleep is needed to retain new information and remember it. This doesn’t bode well for your daily decision making if you don’t sleep much.
9. You’re not able to concentrate as well
Not getting enough quality sleep reduces your reaction time and alertness. This leads to drops in concentration and ultimately mistakes or even accidents. Put it this way. I wouldn’t want to be in a car with you or have you as my surgeon if you’ve not slept much. (There are ways to combat this though, look out for the article in the July issue of the e-magazine)
10. You’re at risk of developing cancer
There is evidence that less sleep is associated with higher rates of some cancers. This is thought to be because your internal body clock also affects many of your bodily functions. So less sleep means your body clock can’t work in the way it needs to.4https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/lack-sleep-increases-your-risk-some-cancers
If you need more convincing then watch Matt Walker’s Ted Talk ‘Sleep is your Superpower’.
But, don’t try and sleep your way to a medal. Getting too much sleep is not good for you either. Researchers found that more than 9 hours of sleep a night for an adult means you are 30% more likely to die early.
So if you’re struggling to get more sleep and you lie in bed looking at the ceiling. Don’t lie there. You’re not helping matters. Get up, do something else for a short time in another room and when you feel sleepy go back to bed. Just don’t sleep for longer than 9 hours.
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Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash