Sleep has been in the news a lot lately, because sleep deprivation is becoming an epidemic in our society. With one in three Americans starting each day in a sleep-deprived state, it’s no wonder it’s a topic of conversation.
When we sleep, we are more productive, healthier, and we feel better. Yet, we still find it difficult to squeeze everything we need to do into our day, and we end up staying up late or waking up early to get it all done.
The National Sleep Foundation released a revised sleep recommendation report getting specific about the amount of sleep required based on age.
The new recommendations are:
Older adults, 65+ years: 7-8 hours
Adults, 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
Young adults, 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
Teenagers, 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
School-age children, 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
Preschool children, 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
Toddlers, 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
Infants, 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
Newborns, 0-3 months: 14-17 hours
There are times when getting enough sleep isn’t an option, such as when an important report is due, someone is sick and needs care, or must-attend events are scheduled. So what happens to your body when you aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep?
A team of Norwegian neuroscientists have set out to answer this question. After conducting observations of sleep-deprived groups in a controlled environment, they found that lack of sleep can change the white matter in our brains, and other studies have shown that it can interfere with our genes.
The good news is that our bodies are good at repairing themselves. When we get a good night’s sleep following a night of poor sleep, our bodies can repair the change in the brain’s white matter. But a chronic state of sleep deprivation can create long-term effects.
What Happens To Your Body When You Don’t Sleep Enough
Our brains aren’t the only thing that suffers when we don’t sleep. Here are eight additional ways a lack of sleep can affect us.
1. We get sick.
Studies show there is a direct relationship between sleep and our immune systems. When we are sleep-deprived, our bodies have a more difficult time fighting off illnesses.
2. We have a hard time thinking.
Experimental Brain Research published a study showing that a lack of sleep contributed to poor decision-making, diminished reasoning and problem-solving skills and slower reaction times when faced with specific tasks.
3. We gain weight.
A three-year-long study of over 21,000 adults evaluated the relationship between sleep and weight. It found people who slept on average of fewer than five hours a night were not only more likely to gain weight but were also at risk of becoming obese.
4. We physically age quicker.
A study of the sleep habits and skin condition of people between the ages of 30 and 50 found that those suffering from a lack of proper sleep saw the effects in their skin and were more likely to be unhappy with their appearance. They noticed more wrinkles, fine lines, age spots and a lack of elasticity in the skin.
5. We hurt our heart.
A lack of proper sleep can negatively impact the health of our heart. A recent analysis published in the European Heart Journal says, coronary heart disease and stroke risks increase when we aren’t sleeping.
6. We are more at risk for cancer.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine released a statement connecting the lack of sleep with higher rates of certain types of cancers, including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. It also showed that people who slept longer than seven hours per night had the lowest mortality rates in the group.
7. We have less sex.
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that found men getting less than five hours per night over a one-week period had lower testosterone levels than their proper-sleeping counterparts. Specifically, it reduced sex hormone levels by as much as 15 percent. Additionally, with each night of poor sleep their appetite for sex continued to decline.
8. We easily forget things.
Researchers have learned that our brain consolidates things when we sleep making it easier to recall. When we don’t sleep our brain can’t do its job, and our memory suffers.
Sleep isn’t just for looks or even to feel refreshed, although they are benefits to a proper night sleep. It’s no exaggeration to say proper sleep can save your life. Rethink your next binge-watching session on Netflix and choose a healthier, lights-out option instead.