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The Truly Scary Risks of Not Getting Enough Sleep

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In this fast-paced world where we regularly juggle work deadlines, family, fitness routines and so much more– who has time for sleep? But alas, not taking sufficient time to snooze can have some hazardous effects on your body.  

Here is the CDC’s recommended amount of sleep human beings should aim for daily:

Age GroupAgeRecommended Hours of SleepInfant4-12 months12-16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)Toddler1-2 years11-14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)Pre-School3-5 years10-13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)School Age6-12 years9-12 hours per 24 hoursTeen 13-18 years8-10 hours per 24 hoursAdult18-60 years7 or more hours per night

Of course, there is some variation in how much sleep different individuals require to function optimally, but one thing is universally agreed on: Not getting enough sleep can have a seriously detrimental effect on your health. Here are some of those very real and very scary risks:

Immunodeficiency

There is ample evidence that sleep deprivation can affect immune system function. According to a 2011 study, “sleep and the circadian system are strong regulators of immunological processes.” Another study demonstrates that sleep deprivation can lead to worsening one’s immunity, which may make someone more prone to infections and respiratory diseases.

Weight Gain

A 2004 study focuses on the associations between sleep and the hormones that regulate appetite. The study shows that a lack of sleep can lead to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity. According to WebMD, sleep deprivation “will disrupt your hormones, including leptin. It could make you feel hungrier as your brain sees lack of sleep as a loss of energy that needs to be replaced.” This is just one of the numerous ways sleep deprivation can be tied to obesity and weight issues.

Reduced Cognitive Function

Researchers believe sleep loss can negatively impact the critical cognitive functions of learning and memory in several main ways.

First, insufficient sleep can affect the amygdala, which handles emotion, and the prefrontal cortex, which handles reasoning. As a result, functioning on low sleep can impair one’s ability to be attentive and increases difficulty in concentration, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. This foggy state also makes information retention extremely challenging.

Sleep deprivation may also make it harder to consolidate memory, which can also affect learning. During the night, sleep cycles play a role in consolidating memories, particularly in the deepest REM stage. So cutting down on essential sleep time—and especially the deepest and most restful sleep—may result in difficulty remembering things learned or experienced during the day.

Mental Health Risks

Poor sleep has strong associations with conditions like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. According to a 2008 study, there is a very strong association between sleep disturbance and major depression. Sleep loss aggravates the symptoms of depression and depression can make it more challenging to fall asleep. On the bright side, treating sleep issues can aid in the recovery of depression and reduce an important factor in depressive relapse and recurrence. 

Increased Risk of Diabetes

Insufficient sleep can also trigger the release of insulin and affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. This can increase the risk of metabolic conditions like diabetes. 

Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Sleep aids in the healing and rebuilding of heart vessels and is important in regulating blood pressure, inflammation, and sugar levels. Studies have found strong connections between lack of sleep and an increased risk of cardiovascular issues, like heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

Hormonal Imbalances

Sleep aids in the production and regulation of various hormones and their levels in the body. Sleep deprivation can affect hormone production, including the production of growth hormones and testosterone. It can also lead to additional stress hormones being released in the body, such as the dreaded cortisol.

Irregularities in Fertility

According to a 2016 study, sleep deprivation can affect the production and balance of hormones in the body that promote fertility and may contribute to infertility and pregnancy loss. This is because, in more indirect ways, insufficient sleep can lead to chronic conditions like diabetes or stress which may inhibit ovulation or cause irregular periods, making pregnancy more difficult.

Increased Risk of Accidents 

Sleep deprivation is a dangerous public safety hazard on the road, as drowsiness can lead to a lag in reaction time worse than driving drunk, according to a 2020 study. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause of 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S and is an issue faced highest among people under 25 years of age.

One of the multiple studies demonstrates how sleep problems are also associated with an increased risk of injury and accidents on the job, where workers with sleep problems had a 1.62 times higher risk of being injured than workers without sleep problems in respective study.

Skin Aging

Ever heard of beauty sleep? It’s not a myth! For instance, after a night or a few of poor sleep, I’m sure you’ve experienced puffy eyes and noticed your skin is looking lifeless, with the ‘You look tired’ comments from your colleagues making sure you don’t forget it. Now, if those few nights turned into weeks or months, it can lead to even more prominent physical changes in your appearance, like dark circles around the eyes, eye bags, fine lines, and consistent lackluster skin that will be harder to bounce back from. This is because your body releases cortisol, a stress hormone, that in higher amounts can break down skin collagen, a protein that prevents the skin from sagging and keeps it elastic and smooth. 

Insufficient sleep can also lead to a decrease in the body releasing the growth hormone HGH which is released during deep or slow-wave sleep, which benefits the appearance and quality of the skin by helping thicken our skin as we age. 

Furthermore, a 2014 study concludes that chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of intrinsic aging, diminished skin barrier function, and lower satisfaction with appearance. After all, looking good and feeling good are inextricably linked, so make sure to get that beauty sleep! 

With Sleep, Quality is Tantamount to Quantity

It’s essential to prioritize a good night’s rest for overall health—and it’s equally important to factor in the quality, not just hourly quantity, of your sleep. 

Start by ensuring that your room is set to a comfortable temperature and your mattress has the right firmness level for your musculoskeletal needs. A mattress that is too soft or too firm to properly support your spine can cost you both quality and quantity of z’s.

For more serious sleep conditions like sleep apnea, always consult with your doctor or even a sleep specialist. He or she can recommend the best plan for you, which may incorporate lifestyle changes, medication, CPAP therapy, or even surgery.

Need a Deep and Restful Night’s Sleep Tonight?

Massage is a proven treatment for sleeplessness caused by insomnia, perimenopause, stress and anxiety, and other rest blockers. Zeel’s signature sleep massage uses a combination of massage techniques, reflexology, and aromatherapy specifically meant to guide you toward deep and restorative sleep.

When you sleep better, life is better. Your body deserves to get the rest it needs, and all the amazing health benefits that come with a great night’s sleep. Massage may be the most enjoyable way possible to get the good night’s sleep you’ve been needing.

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