8 Surprising Effects When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

The busy holiday season usually means long nights, searching for gifts, traveling and attending holiday festivities to meet year-end deadlines. While it’s a joyous time of year, it’s also busy, and getting good quality sleep may be low on your priority list.

Plus, there’s always the consensus that sleep debt can be forgiven with a few long, quality nights of sleep, so you might be thinking you’ll be able to settle in for some Zzz’s in the new year. However, a recent article argues that the idea of ​​”catch up on sleep” is a myth and shows that getting too little sleep on a regular basis can potentially cause long-term brain damage and increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. .

“Sleep is an interesting area of ​​study because we seem to know more about what happens when we don’t sleep,” says Dr. Michael Bruce, Ph.D. “Sleep appears to affect every organ system and every disease state. Literally anything you do, you do it better with a good night’s sleep.”

Below, we dive deep into the effects of sleep deprivation you may not be aware of, and some steps you can take to ensure you’re getting enough quality snooze during this busy time of year.

What is the harm of lack of sleep?

It’s no secret that getting enough shut-eye is essential to your overall health. It not only allows your body and mind to recharge so you can wake up alert, but also helps you fight disease.

“Sleep is fundamental to health,” says Chris Winter, MD, neurologist, sleep expert and host of the Sleep Unplugged podcast. “It leads to the recovery of our mind and body, strengthens our immune system, optimizes our cognitive and emotional abilities, and maintains our cardiovascular health.”

While it’s normal not to get a perfect night’s sleep every night, a few weeks of poor sleep can have long-term effects on your mental and physical health. Dr. Breuss dives deeper into these pitfalls below.

Immune function. Sleep is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, which protects the body from potentially harmful substances. Lack of sleep can alter how quickly and effectively the immune system responds to threats, making it harder to fight infections that are usually easily controlled.

Hormone levels. Sleep promotes the normal production of hormones. For example, sleep is involved in regulating ghrelin and leptin, which control appetite, and insulin, which controls blood sugar levels.

Pain level. Sleep deprivation can increase the perception of pain and reduce the effectiveness of certain types of pain medication.

Excess weight. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to childhood obesity. In adults, lack of sleep can increase the risk of obesity because sleep deprivation has potential effects on appetite, metabolism, and hormone levels.

Type 2 diabetes. Studies have identified a link between sleep loss and the risk of type 2 diabetes, a condition that can have far-reaching effects on overall health.

Depression. People who are sleep deprived may be more likely to experience symptoms of depression, a condition that often leads to further sleep disturbances.

worry Anxiety, like depression, can be made worse by lack of sleep, and anxiety disorders can make it difficult to sleep well, contributing to a negative cycle of anxiety and insufficient sleep.

Hallucinations. Severe short-term sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations if it lasts 48 hours or more.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your sleep overtime. “I think it all starts with setting aside enough time for sleep and being disciplined enough to take advantage of the time,” says Dr. Winter. “It is important to maintain a regular bedtime and wake-up time, along with diet and exercise. It’s also important to make sure the bedroom environment is dark and conducive to sleep.”

Saying “no” to plans when you and your body need it, drinking plenty of water, and getting outside in the sun during the day are all things that can help you get a better night’s sleep. The main way is sleep is priceless, so be sure to make good sleep hygiene a priority this holiday season and into the new year.

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