Everyone suffers from the occasional episode of little to no sleep. You know the nights where you brain just cannot turn off or you have a big test or work day the next day and no matter what you do you cannot sleep? Well you are not alone most people in their lifetimes will suffer from a lack of sleep at some time and miss out on their 7-9 hours of recommended sleep.
But how bad is missing sleep really for your health?
According to the NHS there are a lot of short term and potentially long term health risks from a lack of sleep which can include:
When your body gets a normal nights sleep it heals itself from the previous days activity. During sleep your brain creates new connections that help with your memory retention. When you do not get enough sleep your brain does not have the time to heal itself and get ready for the necessary functions of the next day.
More specifically when you sleep you go through sleep cycles that have different impacts on your brain. For memory specifically the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) part of the cycle is the most interesting. During this REM stage you are most likely to experience dreams, and it is also thought to play a role in the cognitive development and your memory.
If you do not get enough REM sleep then you are very likely to wake up grumpy and agitated and likely with a lack of mental focus.
Sleeping Can Impact Your Weight
Surprisingly there have been many studies that have show that people who sleep less than 7 hours a day gain more on average than those who sleep for more. Additionally to make it worse there are significantly more obese people in the world who sleep for less than 7 hours. So making sure you get enough sleep is a good way to help get your weight in check.
Weakened Immune System
When you fail to get a good nights sleep you prevent your immune system for recovering and getting stronger to find various infections and diseases. And for long term sleep sufferers you also increase the risk of cardiac diseases and even diabetes.
In fact there have been many studies that suggest hat less than 5 hours of sleep a night increases the chance of an individual to get diabetes!
Lower Testosterone Levels
Hormone production and restoration occurs when you sleep. And it is estimated that you need a minimum of 3 hours sleep without waking up for testosterone and growth hormone production to happen. This is especially a concern for children where growth hormone is critical in their growth phase and a massive lack in sleep can impact it severely
Decrease In General Well Being
We all know that we can be grumpy when we do not get enough sleep but more than that it can affect our mental state. It has been proven that long term sleep deprivation can also lead to long term disorders including depression and increased anxiety levels.
From the studies it was concluded that there was a strong correlation between people who slept for less than 6 hours a night and increased anxiety levels.
Catching Up On Lost Sleep (Not all is lost!)
Fortunately you can catch up on lost sleep and that is by simply sleeping more. If it is just one night sleep you struggled with then the recovery will be easy, but if you have not been sleeping for a long period then it can take a long time (weeks or longer) to catch up on it.
But don’t fret, the best thing is that it is possible! If you have a very busy schedule just try to go to bed earlier and always sleep in on weekends. Try to avoid caffeine and other stimulants as much as possible and particularly before you go to sleep!
Avoid sleeping pills and other sleeping aids at all costs. They may help in the short term but they will only make your situation much worse in the long term. They can even lead to a severe addition that can be extremely hard to break.
Another way to try and increase your sleep is through exercise, meditation and even yoga. These will get you out of your head and get your body pushing you to sleep more – naturally!