What Happens to Your Body If You Don't Get Enough Sleep
If you find yourself clocking in fewer than seven to nine hours of sleep most nights, you're not alone. One in three Americans gets inadequate sleep on a regular basis. And experts believe it's causing a health crisis in our nation.
"In our society, nowadays, people aren't getting enough sleep," Harneet Walia, M.D., tells Cleveland Clinic. "They put sleep so far down on their priority list because there are so many other things to do—family, personal and work life," she says. "These are challenges, but if people understand how important adequate sleep is, it makes a huge difference."
Related: 20 Tips for a Better Night's Sleep
Here are seven potential consequences of not getting enough sleep.
You Could Have Trouble Focusing
A poor night's sleep is the enemy of efficiency. Even just one night of bad sleep can temporarily impair your decision-making skills, concentration and ability to stay focused. Plus, it's a lot harder to learn something new or be enthusiastic about your work if you're constantly fighting droopy eyes.
Your Memory Could Be Impaired
A study out of University College London Medical School found that participants who fell from a healthy sleep pattern to fewer than six hours of sleep a night were subjected to accelerated cognitive aging—which puts one at risk for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Putting healthy sleep habits in place today could be the preventive care your brain needs as you age.
Your Mental Health Could Suffer
There is plenty of research to show that skimping on sleep can increase your risk for depression and anxiety. Serotonin, otherwise known as the "happy hormone," plays a role in our sleep by regulating our body's internal clock—and is easily thrown out of whack when we don't get enough of it. This can become a vicious cycle for those already struggling with their mental health, and getting adequate shut-eye should be a priority.
Your Skin Could Start to Look Bad
Not only could you get those telltale eye circles after a bout of poor sleep, but your skin will start to show more signs of inadequate sleep over time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says sleep-deprived individuals can start to see more fine lines and wrinkles, a paler skin tone and an overall look of fatigue. Poor sleep can also leave you feeling dehydrated, which doesn't do any favors for your skin either.
You Could Develop a Heart Condition
Not only do we need to eat nutritious foods and exercise for a healthy heart, we also have to get a good night's sleep most nights. Adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night on a regular basis are put at a higher risk for heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.
Your Weight Could Start to Creep Up
One study from the Center of Preventative Medicine at St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo found a significant association between getting fewer than six hours of sleep per night and obesity. Sleep is essential for restoring our body's natural processes, and our hunger hormones also need us to sleep in order to function properly.
Translation? Without enough sleep, our bodies are prone to consume more calories to keep our energy up once we've started our day. Plus, we are more likely to act on impulse and reach for junk food over a healthy snack.
Your Immune System Could Be Compromised
Just like your hormones, your immune system needs you to get your sleep in order to be at its best for fighting off illness. A regular lack of sleep is actually associated with coming down with a cold! Don't wait until you've gotten the flu or another illness to rest—practice healthy habits now.
The Bottom Line
Let's face it, we live in a world that tells us to go faster and do more—and sometimes it's hard to get the sleep we need. However, it's important for your overall health to clock in regular shut-eye, so put off those work emails on your phone until the morning, shut off the TV and head to bed—your body will thank you!