Living a healthy lifestyle is hard. You have to make sure you’re eating a satiating diet that hits all your needed nutrients. You have to allocate time for going to the gym. This is on top of your personal responsibilities at work or school, and maintaining a relationship with your family and friends. Many of us end up sacrificing sleep just to fit all of this into our schedule. Some would say that “sleep is for the weak”; but truly, sleep is for those who don’t want to become weak. Sacrificing sleep is totally counterproductive.
There are many ways that lack of sleep can affect you both instantly and in the long run. Most of the serious side effects cannot be fixed with stimulants like caffeine.
The obvious signs of lack of sleep are yawning, excessive sleepiness, daytime fatigue and irritability. You may also experience moments of micro-sleep. This is when your body falls asleep for a few seconds at random. This can be particularly dangerous when you’re doing physical activities or driving. The rest manifests inside your body and can be far more dangerous.
Long-Term Effects of Sleeplessness
Central Nervous System
Your brain is one of the organs that suffers the most when you lack sleep. This is primarily because your body creates pathways between nerve cells (neurons) which help you retain information. Lack of sleep leaves your brain exhausted. This causes a lot of problems like a lag in stimulus response, difficulty in concentrating, an impediment to your decision-making processes and reduced creativity.
Sleep deprivation also messes with your hormones and your emotional state. You may experience irritability, impatience, mood swings and other psychological risks.
Your immune system is weaker when you lack sleep. You’re at higher risk for common diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. This is because your body lessens the ability to produce protective, infection-fighting substances called cytokines when your body lacks sleep. It also leaves you at a higher risk for lifestyle or non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Sleep deprivation attacks your fitness from multiple angles. Primarily, sleep affects the production of several hormones. Growth hormone production happens in sleep. These hormones are responsible for building muscle mass, as well as the repair of cells and tissues. Recovery is important in muscle growth and weight loss, and sleep plays a big role in that.
Lack of sleep also makes it harder for you to control your hunger and appetite. This is because of the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Without sleep, your body reduces leptin (which tells you you’ve eaten enough) and increases ghrelin (which tells you to eat more). This induces nighttime snacking and excessive eating.
Insulin is another hormone that increases production when you lack sleep. Insulin controls your blood sugar level. Increased insulin levels raise your risk for type 2 diabetes and promote fat storage in places you don’t want fat to be.
Finally, lack of sleep makes you too tired to exercise. Even if you do exercise, your form and performance will be compromised.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Experts recommend around seven to nine hours of sleep every night. If you have trouble sleeping, try to avoid using electronics before bed. Do activities that are relaxing for you and put your mind and body in a state where you’re ready to sleep. Going to bed at a consistent time each night also improves your quality of sleep.
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, you might have to check what you eat. While there are different variables, your diet should be the first one you check. Eating enough and getting the right nutrients are important to getting good sleep.
No matter how busy you are, overall health requires exercise, proper nutrition and sufficient sleep. Practicing all this only requires discipline and determination.