Many in today’s working society do not reach the recommended hours of sleep, per night. They convince themselves that it’s okay to skimp on the ideal 7-8 hours of sleep without decreasing their functionality.
When we examine, at a deeper level, what the lack of zzz can do to our bodies – we may reconsider.
When we think about sleep deprivation, most assume we are talking about someone who hasn’t slept in days. This is not necessarily the case. True, the symptoms are exacerbated the more hours you spend awake. On the other hand, getting less than 7-8 hours per night, on a regular basis, can slowly add up and take a negative toll on your well-being over time.
Below are 4 areas that are directly linked to insufficient levels of sleep:
1) Weight Management
When we are sleep deprived our bodies emit a hormone from our adrenal glands called cortisol. The cortisol hormone signals your body to increase your appetite. The secretion of cortisol places an increased stress on your body. With this added stress your body naturally wants to increase it’s serotonin (the happiness booster) levels to calm you down. Unfortunately, the bodies desire for serotonin leads to cravings for foods high in carbohydrates and fats. In turn these foods create a neurochemical response to release serotonin combating the stress caused by cortisol. With lack of sleep our bodies go into survival mode and store any food ingested to maintain its resources. To add to these already present concerns with inadequate sleep your body loses the ability to process sugar; leaving you in a vulnerable position compromising your immunity.
2) Lowered Immunity
There are numerous environmental factors which threaten our immune systems, on a daily basis. We don’t want to increase this problem by not getting enough rest. Lack of sleep has been documented to reduce our white blood cell count, which play a key roll in warding off infection and disease. Studies have shown that people who get less that 6 hours of sleep nightly are more prone to the common cold and flu. One study indicated that age, gender, ethnicity or lifestyle habits did not play a significant role in offsetting the negative effects of sleep deprivation. All participants were affected and ultimately had compromised immune systems following unhealthy patterns. Lack of sleep also leads to inflammation in the body, which contributes to some serious and life threatening health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
3) Skin Issues
People often experience undesirable skin issues when faced with sleep deprivation. Unsightly bags under your eyes are a mild symptom compared to the other adverse side effects your skin endures due to lack of sleep. Lowered immunity affects collagen production in you skin. Collagen is a huge structural component of your skin, which protects you from UV Rays, bacterial infections and maintains the elasticity of your skin enhancing a youthful appearance. Common skin conditions that are frequently aggravated by lack of sleep are eczema, psoriasis and irritant and contact dermatitis. This is caused by the cortisol changing tissues in the skin, creating inflammation, worsening these conditions, and many other skin issues.
4) Decrease In Cognitive Function
One of the most debilitating side effects of sleep deprivation is a decrease in your cognitive ability and motor functions. Memory is one of the functions that is adversely affected. Your brain is capable of consolidating the information it receives but a lack of sleep can distort this information before it can be processed. When studying sleep deprived Doctors it was observed that their language and math skills decreased significantly. Beginning signs of motor skill decline can be noticed after 17 hours without sleep. After 24 hours a person exhibits signs equivalent to someone who is legally drunk: impaired speech, balance, coordination and judgment. Accidents from lack of sleep are often linked to poor hand and eye coordination. However, when we get the recommended daily 7-8 hours nightly the deficits in our synaptic connections can be restored to health overtime.
In conclusion, sleep is an overlooked, undervalued commodity for many. For one week, I would encourage you to schedule a set bedtime allowing for enough hours of sleep. When well rested evaluate your overall well-being and don’t be surprised if your outlook on life seems a little brighter.
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