If you read this, the chances are that you (or someone close to you) are not happy with your sleep. And you want to solve that problem quickly instead of going into the issues with poor sleep too much. I understand because I was no exception.
I always intuitively knew that my lack of sleep caused by insomnia is not only mentally and physically draining but also bad for my overall health. However, it was not until I did some more in-depth research and learned how profoundly sleeplessness affects EVERY aspect of our health, that I took my problem seriously enough to take action.
The consequences of poor sleep can be fatal. But most people don’t talk about it, even though many of them suffer, and every year the problem grows in more massive proportions. That’s why I think it is crucial to talk about and understand the health consequences of poor sleep. So let’s jump in.
1. Poor sleep can’t be drugged away
Here are the facts: Two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep. Sixty million people in the U.S. alone suffer from poor sleep. And unfortunately, about one in six rely on some drug or prescription drug sleep aid.
And I am not talking about some illicit substances or alcohol which are certainly also part of the issue but a whole other topic. This is just purely sleeping medication. And it’s a huge problem that involves many risks.
Also interesting: 10 Key Benefits Of Getting A Good Night’s Sleep
One of the biggest risks is that you develop a dependence on sleeping pills and potential rebound insomnia. Once you decide to stop, you may get a strong withdrawal reaction and can’t sleep. Even more so, your insomnia might now be much worse than before.
Also, depending on the type of sleep medication you take, you may face other health risks. Studies are showing that people who use benzodiazepines have a 50 % increased risk of dementia.
One thing is clear: Sleeping pills are never designed for long-term use. So if that’s something that applies to you, I want to encourage you to discuss that with your prescribing doctor. Remember, I am not a medical professional who can give you medical advice. Therefore, I’m not telling you to stop taking your medication abruptly. If you want to get back to sleep naturally, speak to your doctor before making any changes to your prescription, and understand what the effects might be. Withdrawing from medication can be a challenging process, so you need to be prepared.
2. Poor sleep impairs your memory
During sleep, while your body is resting, your brain is busy processing information and forming memories. Without adequate sleep, your brain becomes foggy, your judgment poor, and your fine motor skills impaired.
There are different types of memories. Some are fact-based, such as remembering the names of various African countries. Some are episodic – based on events in your life, such as your first flight in an airplane. And some memories are instructional or procedural, such as how to play the guitar or ride a bike.
Also interesting: Why We Dream: The Key to Emotional and Mental Wellbeing
For you to be able to memorize new information, these three processes must occur:
- Acquisition – learning or experiencing something new
- Consolidation – memory becomes stabilized in the brain
- Recall – the ability to access the memory in the future
Acquisition and recall both take place while you’re awake. However, to consolidate memory, regardless of its type, you require to sleep. Without sufficient sleep, your brain has a harder time recording and retrieving new information.
Memory test studies show that people perform better after a good night’s sleep or even only a nap, whether it’s in a test, at the workplace, or when doing sports.
3. Poor sleep increases stress
Sleep and stress were widely perceived as two states that significantly influence each other. That means intense stress levels lead to sleep deprivation, and insufficient sleep contributes to higher stress levels.
Also interesting: The Relation Between Stress and Sleep Quality
If you follow a regular sleep routine, your body calms down and recovers. Sleep regulates your mood and sharpens your judgment and decision making. Sleep recalibrates your emotional brain circuits and enables you to master the social and psychological challenges during the day with cool-headed calmness. In short, you become a better problem solver and can cope with stress better when you are well-rested.
4. Poor sleep could more than doubling your risk of cancer
While the association between poor sleep and increased risks of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are well known, several studies are now indicating that also the risk of cancer can dramatically increase if you are chronically sleep-deprived. This refers especially to prostate cancer in men, breast cancer in women and colorectal cancer.
5. Poor sleep demolishes your immune system
If you routinely sleep less than six or seven hours a night, it inflames the body and demolishes your immune system. You become more susceptible to viruses and bacteria, which means you may be more vulnerable to colds or flu. This is because your body produces fewer cytokines without enough sleep, a kind of protein that works against infection and inflammation and effectively induces an immune response.
Chronic sleep deprivation also makes flu vaccines less effective by reducing your body’s responsiveness.
6. Poor sleep kills your sex drive
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re obviously more exhausted, and consequently, your sex drive goes down. But lack of sleep also wreaks havoc with your hormones. No matter what your age, not getting enough sleep impacts testosterone levels, leading to erectile dysfunction and lack of sexual desire.
Also interesting: The Connection Between Great Sex and Great Sleep
Here’s how it works: Your highest levels of testosterone occur during REM sleep that occurs late in the sleep cycle. Your first REM lasts about 10 minutes, but with the night, the REM phases become longer, with the last one lasting up to an hour. So if you don’t sleep long enough and miss out on REM sleep, you won’t get the required amount of testosterone.
By the way, like men, women also need natural testosterone to keep bones healthy, strengthen cognition, improve muscle mass, and form new red blood cells.
It’s simple, to boost your love life, and stay healthy, spend more time in bed SLEEPING!
7. Poor sleep is related to Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers have discovered a part of the explanation for why poor sleep is related to Alzheimer’s disease. They found that people who have less slow-wave sleep – the deep sleep you need to consolidate memories and wake up feeling refreshed – have abnormal levels of the naturally occurring beta-amyloid proteins. The build-up of beta-amyloid is associated with impaired brain function and Alzheimer’s disease.
Also interesting: 6 Night Habits That Kill Your Sleep
In other words, adequate sleep plays a key role in the removal of beta-amyloid from the brain and helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Poor sleep causes diabetes
Sleep reforms the body’s metabolic state by fine-tuning the balance of insulin and circulating glucose. If you sleep less than six hours per night, even if it’s only for one week, your blood sugar levels get disrupted so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic.
Also, people with diabetes are much more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. At the same time, the more severe the sleep problems are, the more critical – and less well-controlled – diabetes is likely to be.
9. Poor sleep is linked to cardiovascular disease
Lack of sleep puts you on a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease – regardless of your age, weight, smoking, and exercise habits. The reason is that during sleep, your blood pressure drops. If you don’t get enough restful sleep, your blood pressure stays higher for longer periods, increasing the chances of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and fragile. Consequently, high blood pressure is one of the leading risks of heart disease and stroke.
Also interesting: Insomnia and Mental Health
Also, over time, poor sleep can lead to higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active, and unhealthy food choices – all unhealthy habits that aggravate the risk for heart diseases.
10. Poor sleep contributes to all major psychiatric conditions
Poor sleep is both a symptom and a cause of mental illness. Lack of sleep can contribute to the development or prolongation of mental illness by making it more challenging to cope with mental problems.
It was long known that the majority of people suffering from a psychiatric disorder also struggled with sleep. What is relatively new is that it is not a one-way street and that the successful treatment of sleep disorders can have positive effects on the treatment of psychiatric disorders. One reason for this new insight might be that many of the brain regions commonly impacted by mental mood disorders are the same regions that are involved in sleep regulation and affected by sleep loss.
One example is bipolar disorder. While it is long known that a condition like bipolar disorder throws off sleep, studies are showing now that improving sleep reduces the risk of relapse among people who are suffering from a bipolar disorder.
It seems that REM sleep, the stage in which dreams occur, plays a crucial role in handling stressful situations. Apparently, when we dream, we work through painful memories. It is a process that separates the emotions from the memory so that an unpleasant event that we experienced loses its emotional impact. That’s why scientists now also believe that dreaming may act as a type of overnight therapy.
11. Poor sleep causes (deadly) accidents
Are you drunk if you skip out on sleep? The answer is – Yes!
Studies clearly show that the less sleep you have, the higher the degree of impairment. You can actually equated this to lethal intoxication. A person who’s going 19 hours without sleeping is actually functioning at a legally impaired level.
There is also a state called microsleep, which almost all of us have already experienced. Microsleep occurs when a person in a sleep-deprived state loses consciousness and drops into sleep for a few seconds then wakes back up. It’s like when you sit down, and before you realize it, you have nodded off without intending to do so. This is a big issue in traffic and the cause for many, unfortunately, sometimes deadly car accidents.
Also interesting: The Ultimate Guide for a Good Night’s Sleep in a Car
The NTSB has recorded that there are over a hundred thousand accidents every year. And in those, almost 2000 people die purely because of sleep deprivation. They were driving in an essentially intoxicated state where reflexes are slowed, an accident happened, and unfortunately, people died. So lack of sleep is something to keep in mind as you’re driving home from work or a social event late at night.
12. Poor sleep causes weight gain
Have you ever noticed the desire to eat more when you’re tired? This is no coincidence. Too little sleep swells the concentration of a hormone that makes you hungry while suppressing a companion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction. Although being full, you still want to eat more.
Sleep deprivation is a proven recipe for weight gain in adults and children. Worse still, if you try to diet but don’t get enough sleep, it’s pointless because most of the weight you lose comes from lean body mass and not fat.
Also interesting: Will Sleep Help You Lose Weight?
Sure, a balanced diet and exercise are important. But we must include sleep as the supreme force in the equation. Otherwise, all your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle go in vain.
Further to regulating your appetite, restful sleep maintains a flourishing microbiome within your gut, which is paramount to your nutritional health.
13. Poor sleep cuts down your muscle mass (even if you’re exercising )
Sleep is critical to maintaining body mass. So if you’re skipping out on sleep, you’re chewing up your tissues. You’re actually cannibalizing yourself. The reason for this is that the stress hormone cortisol skyrockets, while testosterone decreases.
And here’s the thing: This hasn’t only an impact on men’s performance in the bedroom but applies to women too. There is a certain amount of testosterone that’s critical for memory, bone, and muscle mass in women as well.
Also interesting: How Does Sleep Affect Your Exercise?
All these things are critical in terms of balance and restoration during sleep. And when a person skips out of sleep, all these finely tuned systems are disrupted, and the result is we’re breaking down muscle and havoc hormones.
14. Poor sleep is linked to skinny fat
A good example is the issue of skinny fat. What’s skinny fat? It’s when someone who looks relatively thin has a disproportionate amount of fat (adipose tissue) stored in their abdomen. What happens in this state is that they’re losing muscle mass for a variety of reasons, including poor sleep. The recovery and repair systems are out of control, and they’re losing lean body mass.
Bottom line, even though they look skinny, most of what’s there is actually fat than muscle and may develop the same medical issues as an obese person.
Let’s face it: Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset our brain and body health every day. In fact, the health-ensuring benefits of sleep are so overwhelming that it is difficult to imagine any other natural or medical state that is more powerful for your physical and mental health.
Therefore, instead of asking why is sleep so crucial we need to ask if there are any biological functions that do not benefit from a good night’s sleep. The simple answer is – No, there aren’t.
So go to bed and get plenty of the #1 prescription for excellent health – sleep!