There’s nothing fun about waking up exhausted. Sleep deprivation is a serious issue in the United States, with over a third of American adults suffering from a lack of sleep. It’s recommended to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and while we know this can be difficult given the vast array of responsibilities we have, it needs to be a priority.
Your health and overall happiness can be greatly affected when you don’t get enough zzz’s. It’s not just a matter of feeling sluggish or desperately needing a cup (or two, or three) of coffee to get your thoughts rolling. It’s so much more than that, from weight gain to increased blood pressure. Yes, sleep is the glue that holds us together. It’s what keeps us motivated, enthusiastic, and ready to take on the world.
Sleep isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. So what happens when we don’t get enough of it? Keep reading.
1. Difficulty Concentrating and Staying Alert
Driving on little to no sleep can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. It’s a different type of impairment with the same tragic results. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatigue causes approximately 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths every year in the United States.
On a less extreme note, sleep deprivation can affect your ability to concentrate and stay on task at work. A lack of sleep makes it difficult to organize your thoughts, and can even make you quite forgetful. You don’t want to forget what you’re presenting at your next meeting, right? Or that you have a meeting in the first place…
2. Less Sex
A lack of sleep can negatively impact your sex life…and I think it goes without saying that no one wants that. Sleep deprivation can decrease testosterone levels and even increase symptoms of depression, making you uninterested in sex altogether.
Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders can also cause your libido to suffer. Even snoring can strain your sex life. No one wants to listen to their partner snore all night instead of getting a good night’s sleep. Your partner might just leave the bedroom and sleep somewhere else in the house, which definitely doesn’t cater towards a healthy and satisfying sex life.
Another unfortunate side effect of not getting enough sleep is a change in your overall mood. It can be something as simple as irritability, or something more serious like depression and suicidal thoughts. If you already suffer from a mental illness, your symptoms can worsen. You deserve to be happy and healthy, so we strongly encourage you to take time for yourself and get to bed early.
4. Weight Gain
Yes, a lack of sleep can lead to some extra pounds for several reasons. For one, no one feels like taking the time to cook a nutritious meal when they’re exhausted. What’s the easiest thing to do? Takeout, of course! While indulging in takeout every so often keeps us sane, it’s always best to cook meals from home. When you prepare your own dinner, you can control exactly which ingredients are used (and how much).
Michael Breus, PhD, the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Arizona, discussed with WebMD how specific hormones are affected by a lack of sleep: “Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin,” Breus says. “Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin. You are eating more, plus your metabolism is slower when you are sleep-deprived.”
5. High Blood Pressure
One of the most serious possible side effects of sleep deprivation is high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack. The Mayo Clinic notes that sleeping less than six hours a night can increase your chance of developing this medical issue. Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D. explains the reason behind this: “It’s thought that sleep helps your blood regulate stress hormones and helps your nervous system remain healthy. Over time, a lack of sleep could hurt your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure.”
If you struggle with stress, we recommend reading this.
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Take Care of Yourself
This list isn’t meant to scare you into an earlier bedtime. We simply want you to be aware of just how important sleep is when thinking about your overall health. Sleep recharges your batteries so that you can stay focused and energized throughout the day. You deserve your eight hours! Don’t deprive yourself.