It’s a fact that sleep is important.  Without adequate amounts, you feel sleepy.  You may also experience other obvious signs and symptoms such as crankiness, headaches, and/or trouble concentrating.  However, there are even more serious consequences of not getting enough sleep.  I’m going to break up the consequences of the lack of sleep into two sections: 1) Your physical health and 2) Cognitive, Mental, & Emotional. So let’s start with

Your Physical Health

1. Increased risk of obesity due to the following factors –
  • No energy – If you do not get adequate sleep at night, you may delay getting out of bed in the morning, because you are too sleepy. This happens to me often.  As a result, now you do not have enough time to make a healthy breakfast and pack a healthy lunch.  You rush out of the house, and you pick up a coffee and donut on the way to work. Does this sound familiar?  If you packed a lunch, you eat whatever you threw together at the last minute in the morning, or you buy whatever is on the menu at the cafeteria that day. I usually combat this by meal prepping on Sundays and pre-packing my meals, so when I am running late in the morning, all I have to do is grab my meals and go.

On your way home, you are tired and you do not feel like spending an hour in the kitchen preparing something, so you decide to get take-out pizza.  You decide to skip the gym that night because you are just too tired.  So without a plan to better your sleep routine or use the time effectively in the morning, you can see how this becomes a vicious cycle and can result in weight gain.

  • Your body’s use of glucose is impaired – Normally, when you eat, your body’s cells are supposed to use the energy (glucose). However, when you are sleep deprived, your body is not as efficient at doing this.  This makes you feel more tired, hungrier so you eat more, and it also increases your chance of diabetes.
  • Your hormones are thrown out-of-whack – A hormone called, cortisol, is produced by your adrenal glands. It is commonly referred to as one of the “stress hormones.”  Cortisol increases with lack of sleep, and it also makes it harder to sleep.  Normally, your cortisol levels should be highest in the morning so that it is easy to wake up, and lowest in the evenings when your body prepares for sleep and as it sleeps.  High levels of cortisol, when it should be low in your body, is linked to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes.

A couple other important hormones that are affected by lack of sleep include grehlin and leptin.  Grehlin is the hormone that tells you when you are hungry, and that it is time to eat.  In contrast, leptin is a hormone that tells you when you are full, and that it is time to stop eating.  Unfortunately, when you don’t get enough sleep, grehlin increases and leptin decreases, putting you at risk of weight gain.

2. Increased Risk of Diseases 

As already mentioned above, lack of sleep increases the potential for weight gain and unstable blood sugars, which then increases your risk of diabetes.

Heart disease is also higher if you are chronically sleep deprived.  For women, this is serious because heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. According to the National Sleep Foundation, despite exercise, age, weight, and smoking habits, your risk of heart disease goes up if you do not get enough sleep.  Although the exact causes are not known, lack of sleep is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and increased inflammation in the body.  All sleep-deprived individuals are at risk of this, but people with sleep apnea tend to have even higher rates of heart disease than those without the medical problem.

3. Lowered Immune System Functioning 

Your immune system is what protects your body from germs. When your body encounters germs, your body goes to work to fight off the invaders.  However, when you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system does not function as well, increasing your susceptibility to colds, flu, and other ailments.  The simple explanation is that your immune system cannot produce the germ-fighting cells that it needs when you aren’t getting enough sleep.  Your body is effective at restoring these fighter cells when you sleep.

4. Your Sex Life Suffers 

This actually could have been included in the topic of hormone disruption above. This is because the sex hormone, testosterone, is reduced in men and women who are leading sleep-deprived lives.  This, in turn, results in a decreased interest in sex for both genders, erectile dysfunction in males, and reduced vaginal lubrication in females.

5. Increased Risk of Injuries and Accidents 

When you are tired, your concentration and focus are poor. Therefore, this puts you at increased risk of workplace injuries and car accidents.

So now that we’ve covered the risks to your physical health that the lack of sleep can cause are you ready to learn about the risks to your mental health? You can check out the effects of lack of sleep on your mental and emotional health HERE.



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