Staying up late and trying to function on a few hours of sleep: we all do it from time to time. But there’s a difference between pushing our own limits on purpose and struggling with a chronic lack of sleep; the latter can put you in a position where your health really suffers as a result. Regularly trying to get by on little to no sleep can have a huge negative impact on your health – including worrisome side effects like these.
Depressed? If you’re having trouble remembering things, getting sick all the time, or gaining weight despite your best efforts to stay well, the problem might be your overall lack of sleep. Too little sleep can inhibit the body’s most critical systems and leave you struggling just to maintain physical wellness, not to mention making you cranky and less able to handle stress. Here’s what you need to know to stay well.
Is Your Inability to Sleep Hurting Your Health? Find Out in This Post:
Mental and Emotional Difficulties
Sleep deprivation prevents the brain, and the many neurons within it, from resting. Over time, this causes the transmission of information between neurons to slow down and become sluggish. Ultimately, this effect leaves you struggling to learn new information and recall short or long-term memories. Severe sleep deprivation can also lead to psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, paranoia, and even suicidal thoughts.
People who are chronically deprived of sleep tend to have a lower libido, or sex drive. Sleepiness and a lack of energy are huge contributing factors, but the side effects of sleep deprivation (including being short-tempered or angry) isn’t exactly a mood-setter, either. Certain sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, may also lower critical libido-boosting hormones like testosterone in the body, leading to a loss of interest.
A study published by the European Journal of Preventive Oncology shows a direct link between insomnia and heart attack or stroke risk. This happens for a few different reasons; first, not sleeping enough puts a great deal of stress on the heart. Secondly, a lack of sleep has been linked to high blood pressure and heart rhythm disorders. The resulting heart issues also have a trickle-down effect that causes damage to other organs, especially kidney function.
A 2014 study found a link between a lack of sleep and weight gain. Results showed that people who slept fewer than six hours per day were up to 30 percent more likely to gain weight and become obese. Researchers have also found that improperly rested bodies do not create enough ghrelin or leptin, the two main chemicals responsible for satiation and feeling full post-meals. Too little of these critical substances may cause you to overeat.
Unfortunately, lack of sleep may also impact your food choices. Scientists don’t know why, but people who don’t sleep enough seem to have more cravings for fatty or carb-laden foods.
Decreased Immune Function
Your body produces cytokines when you sleep. Cytokines are critical in immune modulation, letting you fight off viruses, bacteria, and other invaders quickly and effectively. When you’re sleep-deprived, it’s harder for your body to recover from illness because you produce fewer cytokines.
Ready for the real catch-22? The more you sleep, the better your body can produce the cytokines you need. The cytokines you have, the better you sleep.
Not everyone has the exact same needs when it comes to sleep. Some people do well on six hours of sleep while others need the recommended seven to nine hours. Anyone who is constantly tired or feels like they’re having trouble falling or staying asleep each night should consult a doctor. It’s important to identify the underlying cause or fix sleep hygiene habits before a lack of rest spirals out of control.
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