It seems that the older we get the more we play the “let’s see who got the least sleep game.” The prize? Bragging rights, self importance and ultimately, a quicker trip to the hereafter. As humans, we sleep to gather strength and stay sane but more people are too happy to get less sleep as if it’s a sign of accomplishment. Nothing could be more dangerously farther from the truth.
Here’s are just a handful of the great benefits of getting a good night’s sleep:
Memory improvement – When the brain has the opportunity to rest properly, it is able to focus and retain information much better.
Curbs inflammation – Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself. It also ages the body faster than necessary. When any part of the body is under attack, blood vessels dilate and rush blood to the injury site. This is the same phenomenon that happens with burns or cuts or any other external injury. Internally the same thing happens. Sleep helps to reduces the negative effects of this inflammation allowing the body to heal quicker.
Weight loss – Anyone who’s ever been without sleep for a prolonged period also experienced acute hunger. That’s because lack of sleep contributes to weight gain. Sleep reduces the likelihood that you’ll gain weight from overeating.
Alertness – One of the main culprits of single car accidents is sleep deprivation. Getting enough sleep at night keeps your reflexes sharp and your body more aware and alert.
As previously stated these are just some of the many health benefits that come from getting enough sleep. So what happens when you don’t? In addition to the opposite of those four points, here’s what sleep deprivation really does to your body:
Diabetes – Studies show sleep deprivation can eventually lead to increased fasting blood sugar outside of the normal range of 70mg/dL -100mg/dL, a sign of diabetes.
Increased stress hormone levels -One of the stress hormones that is negatively affected by sleep deprivation is cortisol. Cortisol is released by the adrenal gland and counteracts insulin to create hyperglycemia. Sleep deprivation releases more cortisol in the blood making the body insulin resistant leading to diabetes.
High blood pressure – There are two different ways sleep deprivation can increase blood pressure. One way is by the increase in stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the blood. Another way is that failing to get adequate sleep can affect the sympathetic nervous system which controls the constriction of blood vessels and heart rate. Because blood vessels are narrower, more pressure is needed for the blood to get through. Over a prolonged period, these increases can lead to cardiovascular disease and/or stroke.
Obesity – Even if it’s just one night, a lack of sleep causes humans to eat well beyond satiety. Why? Sleep deprivation decreases leptin, which is a hormone responsible for regulating hunger and metabolism. A decrease in the hormone means that the body’s ability to stop eating when full. Along with a decrease in leptin, comes an increase in ghrelin, partner hormone to leptin, Normally ghrelin increases before a meal but decreases after but for those with sleep debt, ghrelin stays increased. Over time, prolonged sleep debt increases the malfunction of these two hormones which can lead to obesity.
There are many causes of sleep deprivation but for the most part it seems that it’s one “disease” over which many of us have control. While some may think that a lack of sleep is a sign of productivity and commitment, it’s up to the individual to decide if the accolades are worth it in the long run.
So we’d like to ask our readers, how deep is your sleep debt and how are you affected by it?