- People should try and drink eight glasses of water per day.
- People need eight hours of sleep per night.
Give up? Yes, both are essential for good health, but that’s not the answer we’re looking for. No, the answer to the above question is that people regularly fail to follow both of these oft-repeated lifestyle guidelines. And while failing to drink enough water leads to its own set of problems, trying to make it through the day on an inefficient amount of sleep can have major consequences for your mental and physical health.
The many, many effects of sleep deprivation
Failing to get enough sleep has almost too many ill effects to count, though that won’t stop this author from trying. From being in a bad mood to getting sick more often, sleep deprivation is the gift that just keeps on giving. Hopefully, the list below will convince you to hit the hay at an earlier hour:
Inability to Concentrate – Work can be hard enough without fending off urges to take a nap at 2 in the afternoon. As one might expect, this makes it all the more difficult to stay focused on your assignments, and can lead to sloppy work performance and multiple missed deadlines.
Damaged Memory – Throughout the day, our brains receive a constant input of information from external sources. While we encounter this data while we’re awake, it isn’t actually molded into retrievable memories until we sleep. Furthermore, sleep allows us to understand and utilize the information we have stored in our brain’s memory bank. This means that even if a sleep-deprived person is able to recall certain facts and figures, they still may not be able to apply them to the situation at hand. Research seems to support this theory; a University of Minnesota study found that “A” students averaged 36 more minutes of nightly sleep than their “D” average counterparts.
An expanding Waistline – Surprising as it may sound, those extra pounds you’ve put on recently may be related to your sleeping habits. Sleep deprivation knocks your hunger hormones out of whack, leading to stronger cravings for food. Not only will you have urges to scarf down more between-meal snacks, but according to a 2004 University of Chicago study, you’ll probably seek out items that are saturated with calories and simple carbohydrates (AKA the bad kind of carbs).
In addition to altering your diet for the worse, sleep deprivation also makes it harder for you to exercise. The reason for this correlation is fairly obvious, as it’s very difficult to work out when your body is begging you for rest. Combined with an unhealthy diet, this lack of exercise makes staying thin an almost impossible task.
A Shorter Fuse – Trying to plow through a work day on little sleep makes it harder to be civil to those around you. Tired people tend to be grumpy people, and grumpy people are for more likely to lash out at others than those working on adequate sleep. A lack of sleep amplifies even minor irritants, such as losing a personal belonging or being cut off in traffic, and can put you in a sour mood for the entire day.
Greater Vulnerability to Disease – Each day, your immune system is tasked by your body with fending off millions of microorganisms trying to kill it. Needless to say, this is an important and difficult job, one made much harder by a lack of sleep. A bevy of studies have confirmed that skimping on sleep makes the body much more susceptible to medical problems, ranging in severity from the common cold to cardiovascular disease.
Consider the results of one recent study, which gauged the stroke risk of over 5000 participants. The people surveyed for this report weren’t unhealthy; to the contrary, the subjects studied were all healthy adults with normal body mass indexes. Shockingly, this study found that its participants were four times as likely to suffer stroke if they slept less than six hours each night.
Strokes aren’t the only problem facing the sleep-deprived masses; your entire immune system suffers from a poor sleep schedule, restricting its ability to fend off malevolent invaders. During sleep, the body produces cytokines, a certain type of protein that facilitates communication amongst the divergent parts of the immune system. Without sleep, your immune system often has inadequate numbers of cytokines at its disposal. To make matters worse, a night-owl lifestyle also adversely affects your supply of antibodies, the body’s go-to weapon for taking out harmful bacteria and viruses.
After reading all that, staying up past midnight kind of loses its appeal. Though it may require a significant shift in your nightly routine, there is no doubt that sleep goes hand-in-hand with a happier, healthier life.
The proceeding article was written by an employee of Natural Knowledge 24/7.