Getting enough sleep has great importance to our life. Sleep is as essential to the human body as food and water. When we’re busy, sleep is often one of the first things we sacrifice. We tend to think that we can stay up late and get up early to accomplish more without suffering too many consequences. But a lack of quality sleep has detrimental effects beyond just feeling groggy and needing more coffee to get through the day.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about a third of Americans are getting less than the recommended amount of sleep each night. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to an extensive list of health conditions including depression, heart disease, and obesity.
If getting enough sleep is still not a priority for you, consider the following ways that a lack of sleep may be affecting your health and your quality of life.
Historically, it was thought that the fluid in the brain, cerebrospinal fluid, was there only to cushion the brain from injury. A study conducted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that cerebrospinal fluid may have another role: it appears that the brain’s plumbing system opens during sleep to allow fluid to flow through the brain. The research suggests that this fluid helps clear the brain of harmful toxins during sleep, which may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
This also may explain why a lack of sleep makes the brain feel “foggy” during the day and can inhibit creative thought.
During sleeping hours, the body releases the human growth hormone that promotes tissue growth, so the body can repair injuries and build new cells. Internal and external injuries heal more quickly when the body gets enough sleep. Adequate sleep can also help the body stave off colds and other illnesses.
The rest that your mind and body receive during sleep time is like a reboot of your system. Multiple studies have been performed that link a lack of sleep to moodiness. Although a lack of sleep doesn’t cause clinical depression, not getting enough sleep can exacerbate it.
Chemicals in the brain associated with deep sleep also tell the body to stop producing stress hormones. If you don’t get enough sleep, or you don’t sleep well, your body will continue making these hormones. This can lead to a cycle where stress interferes with your sleep and you feel more and more stressed as a result.
Stress hormones are also linked to heart disease. Continually high levels of cortisol can increase blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides — all common risk factors for heart disease.
Lack of sleep is also associated with increased levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein. Chronic inflammation is also associated with heart disease, as well as other degenerative diseases such as cancer and osteoporosis.
Lack of sleep may lead people to eat more, and thus gain weight. According to a study conducted by researchers from Mayo Clinic, participants who slept less than their normal time were found to consume more calories than a control group. The sleep-deprived group slept 80 minutes less than the control group, and consumed an average of an additional 549 more calories per day. Researchers noted that lack of sleep was associated with changes in levels of leptin and ghrelin — hormones that help control appetite.
Additionally, people who are tired are more likely to opt for less healthy, convenient food choices that don’t require as much preparation, which can also contribute to weight gain.
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