Everyone has a poor night’s sleep from time to time.
Aches and pains may cause you to toss and turn. Maybe you end up burning the midnight oil to get a project done. Or stress might leave you staring at the ceiling.
But if not getting enough sleep morphs from a sometimes problem into a chronic one, your health may be in danger.
How not getting enough sleep harms your health
Following are five different ways your lack of shuteye could be causing you harm.
1. Memory loss:
If you’ve been feeling forgetful lately, your lack of sleep could be the reason. Because experts say lack of sleep can cause us to, literally, be unable to retain memories.
Not getting enough sleep makes focusing and learning a challenge. Which means we end up feeling muddled. And while that’s bad, the memory sabotage doesn’t end there.
Our brains use REM (rapid eye movement) sleep time to consolidate memories, sorting through them, choosing what’s important and solidifying them.1 But when you don’t get enough shuteye, your brain doesn’t have the chance to do this critical step.
Unfortunately, simple forgetfulness isn’t the worst way not getting enough sleep could hurt cognition. It’s not just short term memory problems we need to worry about. Researchers say not getting enough sleep could raise your risk for dementia too.
An Australian study, which crunched 19 years’ worth of sleep data from a group of volunteers enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study, uncovered a link between less time spent in REM sleep and dementia.2
REM sleep is the time when we do most of our dreaming and consolidate our memoires. And the researchers found that folks with a dementia diagnosis spent an average 17 percent of their sleeping hours in deep REM sleep. While the dementia-free volunteers spent an average 20 percent of theirs in REM.
When they further analyzed the data, they found that for each percentage point drop in REM there was a 9 percent increase in dementia risk. And they were able to confirm that the drop in REM sleep wasn’t the result of early dementia, but the other way around.
3. Weight gain:
Scientists say getting too little sleep could end up with there being far too much of you.3 And it’s not just the midnight snacks (although they don’t help) either. It turns out not getting enough sleep can affect the hormones that govern our weight.
Ghrelin is the hormone that increases our appetite, reminding us to eat. And leptin, its counterpart hormone, lowers our appetite signaling us to stop filling our faces.
Normally the system works without a hitch; we eat what we need to keep our bodies well fueled and then stop. But burning the candle at both ends upsets that balance.
Studies find that sleep deprived people tend to have high levels of hunger-stimulating ghrelin. And, as a result, that leads to eating more and gaining weight.
In one study folks who didn’t get enough sleep chowed down on 300 extra calories a day, compared to those who get enough sleep. That’s can add up to 2,100 extra calories a week. And you can see how that could be a problem.
But the problems don’t end with your hormones. Studies show sleep deprivation can slow your metabolism down to crawl. Experts say it’s likely because your body naturally slips into energy conservation mode when you’re tired. Over time that can cause your weight to balloon and put you at risk for other diseases including diabetes and heart disease.4,5,6,7
Not getting enough sleep can do more than just put you in a bad mood. Chronic insomnia makes you a stunning ten times more likely to develop depression, according to a major study published in the journal Sleep.8
Experts say there’s a bit of the chicken or egg issue here because the link between depression and sleep problems is so strong. In fact, three quarters of people with depression reportedly also have issues with insomnia.9
5. Lagging libido:
Not getting enough sleep can take a toll on your love life too. Being overtired typically sends your sex drive plummeting. And according to experts, it’s not just the lack of energy.
Research has revealed that when guys skip out on sleep their testosterone levels tend to drop. In fact, according to research published in JAMA, sex hormone levels can run 10 to 15 percent lower in folks who have gotten under five hours of shuteye a night.10
Any way you slice it, not getting enough sleep is bad news. Don’t panic if you spend a sleepless night or two here and there. But if your sleep issues become chronic, it’s time to do something about it before it begins to affect your health.
You can start with our 8 food secrets to help you sleep like a baby TONIGHT and our 7 supplements to help you get a great night’s sleep without drugs.
|1. “Sleep Selectively Enhances Memory Expected to Be of Future Relevance,” Journal of Neuroscience, 2 February 2011, 31 (5) 1563-1569|
|2. “Sleep architecture and the risk of incident dementia in the community,” Neurology, Published online before print August 23, 2017|
|3. “Association between weight gain, obesity, and sleep duration: a large-scale 3-year cohort study,” September 2012, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 829–833|
|4. “Sleep Duration and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-analysis of Prospective Studies,” Diabetes Care 2015 Mar; 38(3): 529-537|
|5.”Sleep Apnea and Daytime Sleepiness and Fatigue: Relation to Visceral Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Hypercytokinemi,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 85, Issue 3, 1 March 2000, Pages 1151–1158|
|6. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea Dynamically Increases Nocturnal Plasma Free Fatty Acids, Glucose, and Cortisol During Sleep ,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 102, Issue 9, 1 September 2017, Pages 3172–3181|
|7. “Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies,” European Heart Journal, Volume 32, Issue 12, 1 June 2011, Pages 1484–1492|
|8. “Epidemiology of insomnia, depression, and anxiety,” Sleep. 2005 Nov;28(11):1457-64|
|9. “Sleep disorders as core symptoms of depression,” Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2008 Sep; 10(3): 329–336|
|10. “Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men,” JAMA. 2011;305(21):2173-2174|
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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