How important is sleep? In our go, go, go world, many of us give up sleep in order to accomplish everything that’s on our to-do list. When we have more to do, we simply stay up later and get up earlier in order to accomplish it. Some of us skip sleep entirely, pulling all-nighters one or more nights of the week.
Though lack of sleep may not seem to have much more of an impact than making us feel more tired the next day, not getting enough zzzs can actually lead to a lot more serious problems. If you are trying to improve your health or fitness — or to lose weight — not getting enough sleep can seriously undermine your efforts. Here are just a few ways that the amount of sleep you get (or don’t) can impact your health:
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more of the hormone that triggers hunger and less of the hormone that triggers satiety. In other words, you want to eat more and you don’t feel full once you start eating. Lack of sleep also triggers a spike in your insulin levels, so you want to eat more sugary foods and your body is on a constant roller coaster of blood-sugar spikes and crashes.
All of this can lead to significant weight problems — even obesity in the long run. If you want to lose weight (or just maintain a healthy weight), getting enough sleep is just as important as exercising and eating a healthy diet.
Increased Incidence of Depression
Not getting enough sleep can make you feel more than tired. A study in the journal Sleep found that for each hour of sleep lost a night, psychological distress rose by 5 per cent in a group of patients 17 to 24. The study found that lack of sleep contributed to a greater incidence of depression, anxiety, and even bipolar disorder. For those who got less than five hours of sleep per night, their chances of suffering psychological distress went up three times.
Reduced Immune Function
Lack of sleep suppresses your immune system, increasing your likelihood of developing minor illnesses and infections that could lead to more serious ones. Sleep deprivation reduces your white blood cell count and increases inflammation in your body, both of which make your immune system less effective. Lack of sleep can even make some medications or vaccines that you receive less effective.
Increased Prevalence of Disease
Because of the hormonal shifts that sleep deprivation can cause, as well as the suppressed immune function, a lack of sleep has been shown to contribute to a number of serious health problems and diseases. Among them are diabetes, heart disease, and thyroid disorders. Some studies have shown that even slightly reduced sleep — as much as six or seven hours per night — can lead to a greater risk of some of these diseases.
Sleep is a significant part of a whole-health plan. Exercise and a healthy diet are two components. However, if you want to achieve true health and fitness, and maintain a healthy weight, you must make sure you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, every night.
Do you get as much sleep as you need to? Tell us how much you sleep a night and how it affects you in the comments!