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Why Is Sleep So Important For Your Health?

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You already know that sleep is important. And because this week is Sleep Awareness Week 2021, there will be posts about sleep all week!

Without adequate amounts, you feel sleepy. You may also experience other obvious signs and symptoms such as crankiness, headaches, and/or trouble concentrating. However, there are even more serious consequences of not getting enough shut-eye.

Your Physical Health

1) Increased Risk of Obesity due to the following factors

a.) No energy: If you don’t get adequate sleep at night, you may delay getting out of bed in the morning, because you are too sleepy. As a result, now you don’t have enough time to make a healthy breakfast and pack a healthy lunch. If you packed a lunch, you eat whatever you threw together at the last minute, or you buy whatever is on the menu at the cafeteria. On your way home, you’re tired and you don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen, so you get take-out. You decide to skip the gym that night. You can see how this becomes a vicious cycle and can result in weight gain.

b.) Your body’s use of glucose is impaired: Normally, when you eat, your body’s cells are supposed to use the energy (glucose). However, when you are sleep-deprived, your body is not as efficient at doing this. This makes you feel more tired, hungrier so you eat more, and it also increases your chance of diabetes.

c.) Your hormones are thrown out-of-whack: A hormone called, cortisol, is produced by your adrenal glands. It is commonly referred to as one of the “stress hormones.” Cortisol increases with lack of sleep, and it also makes it harder to sleep. Normally, your cortisol levels should be highest in the morning so that it is easy to wake up. It should be lowest in the evenings when your body prepares for sleep. High levels of cortisol, when it should be low in your body, are linked to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes.

A couple other important hormones that are affected by lack of sleep include grehlin and leptin. Grehlin is the hormone that tells you when you are hungry, and that it is time to eat. In contrast, leptin is a hormone that tells you when you are full, and that it is time to stop eating. Unfortunately, when you don’t get enough sleep, grehlin increases and leptin decreases, putting you at risk of weight gain.

2) Increased Risk of Diseases

As already mentioned above, lack of sleep increases the potential for weight gain and unstable blood sugars. This then increases your risk of diabetes.

Heart disease is also higher if you are chronically sleep-deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation, despite exercise, age, weight, and smoking habits, your risk of heart disease goes up if you don’t get enough sleep. Although the exact causes are unknown, lack of sleep is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and increased inflammation. All sleep-deprived individuals are at risk of this. However, people with sleep apnea tend to have even higher rates of heart disease than those without.

3) Lowered Immune System Functioning

Your immune system is what protects your body from germs. When your body encounters germs, your body goes to work to fight off the invaders. However, when you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system does not function as well. This increases your susceptibility to colds, flu, and other ailments. Your immune system cannot produce the germ-fighting cells that it needs when you aren’t getting enough sleep. Your body is effective at restoring these fighter cells when you sleep.

4) Your Sex Life Suffers

This actually could have been included in the topic of hormone disruption above. This is because the sex hormone, testosterone, is reduced in men and women who are leading sleep-deprived lives. This, in turn, results in a decreased interest in sex for both genders, erectile dysfunction in males, and reduced vaginal lubrication in females.

5) Increased Risk of Injuries and Accidents

When you are tired, your concentration and focus is poor. Therefore, this puts you at increased risk of workplace injuries and car accidents.

Your Cognitive, Mental, & Emotional Health

Pulling all-nighters is a bad idea for your physical health. But it also negatively impacts your mental, cognitive, and emotional health. People have recognized that the days of bragging about being able to function with only a few hours of sleep, is really a health hazard. It’s not something to mess around with.

Here are 7 ways that sleep deprivation affects these areas of your health:

1. Altered Mood

You already know that you feel irritable and short-tempered when you don’t get enough sleep. Chronic lack of sleep, however, also increases your chances of depression and anxiety.

2. Decreased Ability to Handle Stress

Stressful situations are difficult enough to handle when you have gotten a good sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, and you are dealing with stress, your ability to do this well deteriorates significantly. You may get angry, yell, cry, or do things that you normally wouldn’t if you had gotten enough sleep.

3. Decreased Ability to Think & Learn

Your ability to concentrate and focus on tasks, make decisions, and carry through with them, is hampered a great deal with lack of sleep.

In addition, your ability to learn new things is also reduced. Sleep can help with new learning, and it’s probably the reason why babies and young children sleep so much. Babies are constantly learning and adapting to their environments. New learning does not end with childhood, so adequate sleep continues to play an important role in adults. In addition, your brain assimilates information as you sleep, helping you to retain information.

4. Reduced Judgment Skills

Although this also falls under the inability to think, it deserves its own bullet point. If your judgment and insight is lacking due to poor sleep, your decision-making skills will be affected. You may make more impulsive decisions, or do things that are potentially unsafe while driving, for example. Your ability to assess situations accurately decreases.

5. Negatively Impacts Relationships

Because of your reduced ability to handle stress and your increased irritability, it makes sense that your personal and work relationships will suffer. This may also take a toll on your self-esteem as friendships and relationships are ruined. You find that you have no one to talk to about it.

6. Poor Memory

Again, this goes back to the inability to concentrate and focus on what is happening around you. If you don’t register things in your short-term memory, it’s impossible for the brain to convert memories to long-term ones.

7. Slowed Reaction Time

Sleepiness when driving has been described as being as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. If you mix lack of sleep and alcohol, it makes you even more dangerous behind the wheel.

Not only is driving dangerous when you lack sleep, working in certain industries or professions can be extremely dangerous. For example, construction workers and police officers are two professions that require alertness and the ability to react quickly.

Loving Life — The Reboot!

Dominique

This article provides general information and discussion about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this article, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having.

Why Is Sleep So Important For Your Health?

7 Comments

  • Clarice

    I agree that sleep is so important and that it is something that we should not take for granted.

    Based on experience, it’s going to be the cause of your hormones to go out-of-whack and believe me it’s going to cause a lot more serious problems once it’s out of place.

  • Blair Villanueva

    I agree with all you’ve mentioned. Having a lack of sleep made us unhealthy, and less appetite for sex. And also affects badly our relationship.

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