If there was one change we could make to our society that would have the largest and most lasting effect on our overall health it wouldn’t be eliminating sugary drinks or forgetting about fast food, it would be making sure that everyone gets as much sleep as they need each night.
Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. While we generally will skimp on sleep for just about everything else (except maybe exercise) what we are sacrificing isn’t just a few more hours between the sheets, it is our health. Worse still, skipping sleep impacts everything in our lives including our emotions, moods, relationships, cognitive ability, and even how much we weigh.
So, the next time you feel the urge to stay up a little late or skip an hour or so of sleep, remember what you are really sacrificing when you sacrifice sleep.
1. Your Health, Now and Forever
The short terms effects of sleep deprivation are significant but they are just the tip of the ice berg. Missing a single night of sleep impacts hormone levels in your body and begins to affect the operation of your immune system. After only 5 days of impaired sleep, your body’s ability to manage insulin can resemble that of someone with diabetes. And the effects only get worse from here. From heart disease and hypertension to diabetes and certain cancers, not getting the sleep you need over the long term reduces your average life span, literally shaving years off your life.
2. Your Likability
Not getting enough sleep has real consequences when it comes to our mood and emotions. It only takes a single nigh of bad sleep to turn us all into cranky, crabby jerks who snap at the people we love and cut others off in traffic. Imagine the long term effects of consistent sleep loss and it is easy to see how lack of sleep can impact our relationships, friendships, employment, and overall enjoyment of life.
3. Your Weight
More and more research has shown the link between sleep and weight. The less sleep you get the more weight you gain and the more weight you gain, the less likely you are to get the sleep you need. Sleep affects weight by messing with our hormonal levels in ways that make us hungrier and more likely to eat things that are not good for us. Not getting the sleep you need also makes it less likely that you will exercise, which only compounds the problem.
4. Your Cognitive Abilities
Our brains need sleep to function optimally. Without sleep, we lose cognitive function and are able to pay attention for shorter and shorter amounts of time. We struggle to remember things and have difficulty remaining alert will performing important tasks like driving.
Do yourself a favor and make sleep your number 1 priority for the next few months. You will be amazed at how big a difference an extra hour or two of shut-eye can make on the entirety of your life.