Getting eight hours of sleep every night just isn’t an option for some of us (school, family, boyfriends, parties, blah blah blah). However, consistently running on little sleep can reek havoc on your body. Not to scare you too much, but lack of sleep is tied to some longterm health problems like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Dun dun dunnnnnnn. But it’s not just the long-term problems you should be concerned about- even a couple nights of less than five hours of sleep can have harmful effects on your body.
When school gets intense, some people start to pull all-nighters or feel they should operate on less sleep. “I only got four hours of sleep last night,” you’ll hear your classmate brag. But should this really be something we take pride in? Probably not. Research shows that one of the best things you can do for your body is get a good amount of sleep. Maybe we should start gloating about how well we’re treating ourselves instead of how awfully. “I drank eight glasses of water today and went to bed at 10pm!” #Winning.
Your job is to take care of yourself. If getting sleep is low on your list of priorities, you may want to rethink what’s important. Here are some strange things that happen to your body when you run low on sleep:
The Brain Thinks You're DrunkYou would never drink alcohol before attempting to perform a difficult task (at least I hope you wouldn't!) but if you're getting less than five hours of sleep you might as well be four drinks in. Harvard's Charles Czeisler has said that a week with little sleep is "equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.1 percent." You probably shouldn't be driving or making important decisions at that point. Source: iStock
You Lose Brain TissueYour mom probably told you to get a good night's sleep before a test, and science may be backing up her advice. A study by the Uppsala University in Sweden showed that just one night of sleeplessness resulted in symptoms that point to a loss of brain tissue. The lead researcher of the study concluded that a good amount of sleep each night was "critical for maintaining brain health." Source: iStock
You Become More EmotionalEveryone has blurted out, "I'm just tired" after an emotional flair-up. It's not just an excuse- sleep deprivation can literally shut down the logical reasoning part of your brain. Conversely, the amygdala (the emotional center of the brain) becomes much more active when you are running on less sleep. The director of UC Berkeley's Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory says that in his studies, "the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity" and gone into a fight-or-flight mode when faced with less sleep. If you're goal is to be more even-keeled, you'll need those hours of rest in order to put your problems in perspective. OM shanti, everyone. Source: iStock
You Are HungrierIf you find yourself constantly going for seconds or thirds at dinner, it could be due to a lack of sleep. Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that the hormones that regulate your hunger go out-of-whack with less sleep. Ghrelin, which tells the body that it's hungry, increases when you skimp on your Zzz's while Leptin, which tells the body that it's full, is decreased. Cake, cookies, and sweets all sound better to a sleep-deprived body. (I know that I'm more apt to start the day with a muffin when I'm tired.) Source: iStock
It's Harder To Learn New ThingsGoing to class is the first step in mastering a subject, but did you know that sleeping that night will help your brain fully comprehend it? Sleep helps us remember things that we've learned. During the REM (rapid eye movement) and SWS (slow-wave sleep) cycles, our brain processes and consolidates all of the information we've gathered that day. Even motor skills like playing the piano are refined during sleep. The moral of the story: if you're having trouble recalling the facts from History class during a test, it could be because you need more Zzz's. Source: iStock
Your Skin Ages FasterObviously you don't look as gorgeous when you're running on less sleep (no one likes to hear the dreaded, "You look tired today!), but did you know that it has a permanent effect on your skin? A clinical trial commissioned by Estée Lauder and conducted by physician-scientists at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center found that poor sleepers had more "fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced skin elasticity." Yikes. The skin just isn't able to repair itself as well when you don't get enough rest. Source: iStock
You Can't FocusYou've probably felt that your head was in a fog after a restless night. You'll read an entire page of a book only to realize you haven't comprehended a single sentence. A Harvard article pointed out that when we're sleep-deprived, we have a harder time receiving information because our " focus, attention, and vigilance drift." Source: iStock
You Get Sick More OftenIf you're one of those people who is sick all the time, you may have yourself to blame. When you don't get enough sleep, your body runs low on infection-fighting antibodies and cells. It's almost like you don't give yourself enough battery time when you consistently pull all-nighters. Sleep- it does a body good! Source: iStock
Do you try to get a good amount of sleep each night? What keeps you from sleeping? Let me know in the comments below!