Sure, we all know that we should get enough sleep so our body can rest and repair itself, but do you know the consequences of not getting enough sleep? Beyond constant fatigue, there are serious health consequences you can subject your body to by not getting an adequate amount of sleep every night.
Note: this article is directed toward people who consistently do not get enough sleep (not just one night here and there). However, it is beneficial for everyone to have a complete understanding of how your body works and its relationship with sleep, so read on.
Soon, we’ll dive deeper into the relationship sleep has with different aspects of your life, but first, we want to get some generalities out of the way.
Yes, everyone should get an appropriate amount of sleep, but that doesn’t come down to a singular number for everyone. In fact, there are many people who feel great after only getting 5-6 hours of sleep rather than 8-10.
A night’s sleep for some might look like an 8PM bedtime and waking up at 7AM and they will still be tired, even after 11 hours of sleep. For others, they don’t fall asleep until 11:30PM and they can wake up at 6 AM feeling well rested and ready to tackle their day. Either way, you should know (within reason) how much sleep you need to get in order to wake up and feel energized.
Children and young adults tend to need more hours of sleep for them to be able to process information and be fully rested for the next day, but again, it depends on the individual.
With all of that being said, let’s look at the relationship between your sleep and your body weight, potential diseases, immune system, mental health, and relationships with others.
Lack of sleep has been connected to being overweight or obese. When you sleep, your body produces a chemical called leptin that helps your body to feel full and one called ghrelin that drives your hunger. No sleep = No leptin or ghrelin. This means no chemicals to help control your hunger.
There have been many studies in which sleep deprivation has increased the likelihood of your chances to be diagnosed with Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, hypertension, high blood pressure, and more. Conversely, studies have also shown that getting an appropriate amount of sleep can reverse this and help prevent diseases such as those aforementioned.
When you are unable to spend time in deep sleep (see below), it affects your immune system directly. This can also increase inflammatory mediators, reducing the body’s ability to heal. Your body is less able to fight off bacteria, resulting in more colds and flus.
Your brain, as much as your body, needs adequate time to rest. No matter how old you are, the amount of information needed to process everything that happens in a day is immeasurable and can fluctuate between good and bad days. Lack of sleep can also potentially have effects on mental illness, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
There is no question that a lack of sleep can be equivalent to lack of motivation, lack of friendliness, and lack of engagement. It also leaves your irritable, snappy, and of course, tired. This means that all of your relationships and friendships are affected. We know you don’t want to be tired all of the time. Feeling drained doesn’t make you feel good. That’s why we can’t stress enough the importance of getting a goodnight’s sleep.
Overall, the QUALITY of sleep you get is more important that the QUANTITY (number of hours) you get.
If you are sleeping for a long time, but it isn’t a deep, restful sleep, it doesn’t matter that you slept for 12 hours. If you don’t know anything about REM and NREM sleep, here’s a brief overview:
When your body is falling asleep (or back to sleep). It has three phases:
Stage 1: Your eyes are closed but it’s still fairly easy to wake you up.
Stage 2: This is when you’re sleeping lightly and your body begins to slow down your heart rate, lowering your body temperature slightly.
Stage 3: This is where the magic happens (and no we aren’t talking about dreams- yet). This is when your body goes into deep sleep and has the ability to begin repairing itself by regenerating tissue, multiplying blood cells, building your immune system, building muscle, and lengthening your bones. Typically, this happens after the first 20 minutes you’ve been asleep and can last longer than an hour.
This is sleep that starts in small increments and can increase through the night. This is when you dream. When you come out of REM sleep, most of the time you jump back into Stage 3, or deep sleep, and rotate through the NREM and REM cycle.
All of this is to reiterate the idea that if you’re sleeping lightly for a long amount of time, this doesn’t do nearly as much for your body as it would if you were to sleep for less time but have multiple opportunities for deep sleep.
According to the experts at Harvard University’s Medical School,
“...Experts have concluded that getting enough high-quality sleep may be as important to health and well-being as nutrition and exercise.”
(Harvard Medical School, 2008).
Guys, nothing about this has changed over the last 10+ years. Sleep is still an incredibly important thing and should be considered something in the forefront of your mind instead of an afterthought at night.
Although we at Be Well are not sleep doctors, we can provide services and guidance that will help you to get a better night’s sleep. Make an appointment for chiropractic care, massage therapy, and more to help relieve pain and stress to help you sleep better at night. You may also want to stop in for some healthy, delicious snacks and lunches from our vegan cafe. Don’t leave without getting one of your fresh juices and smoothies.