We live in a hectic and demanding world, and far too many among us find ourselves having to make tough choices in order to get to everything that we want to. Unfortunately, one of the first things that we tend to sacrifice in an attempt to fit everything else in is our recommended daily amount of sleep. Sleeping a full eight hours feels like a luxury, especially when you consider all of the fun or important or pressing things that could be being taken care of when we’re just lying there in bed.
But the truth is that sleep is a much higher priority than we have a tendency to give it credit for. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has described sleep deprivation in the United States as a health epidemic, and numerous studies have been published listing a myriad of ill effects that accompany cutting down on the sleep that you’re getting.
In case you’ve been too busy to pay attention, here is a list of ways that your habit of putting other things ahead of sleep in your personal priorities is having a negative impact.
Sleep deprivation has been directly linked to a higher incidence of headaches, and those who suffer from migraines can attest to this. Migraines often immediately follow nights without sleep, and if you are one of the millions of people in the United States who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea then you have a 36 to 58% chance of waking up with a morning headache every day.
2. Gaining Weight
There have been a number of studies that have shown that sleep deprivation has a direct impact on imbalances in the hormones that control your appetite, your craving for unhealthy, high-fat, high sugar foods, and your inability to control your impulses in general. Sleep deprivation also effects your ability to feel full, which means that you will be eating long past the point that you need to.
3. Cardiovascular Problems
If you deprive yourself of sleep, you’re not only causing yourself to experience high blood pressure, you’re also increasing the concentrations of C-reactive protein in your blood stream. This protein is a known marker for heart disease risk, and it increases whether you go completely without sleep as well as if you simply don’t get enough of it.
4. Immune System Deficiencies
Remember your mom or grandmom referring to you as being ‘run down’ when you weren’t getting the sleep that you need, and warning that you were going to get sick because of it? There is a lot of truth to that theory. Your immune system is weakened by lack of sleep, which means that your body’s natural defenses against infection are depleted.
5. When You’ve Gotta Go…
It may be because you haven’t gotten enough sleep. The body goes through a number of systemic changes while we’re sleeping, including slowing down its urine production. This is why we don’t wet the bed when we are asleep. But when you don’t get the sleep that you need this slow-down stops taking place. You probably won’t wet the bed, but you are likely to find yourself waking up a lot more in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
6. Weakens Immunizations
We’re at that time of year when everybody is pushing for getting flu shots, and we also need to keep up on our other immunizations such as vaccinations against Hepatitis A. Studies have shown that when you don’t get enough sleep, these immunizations are much less effective. This is less true of flu shots than of other immunizations, but is still an important indicator of the role that sleep plays on our body’s immune system.
7. The Common Cold Becomes Much More Common
If you’re finding yourself much more prone to catching cold, you might want to take a good long look at your sleep habits. A study of people exposed to the common cold virus showed that those who had gotten eight or more hours of sleep were much less likely to get sick than those who had gotten less than seven hours. In fact, the sleep deprived group was three times more likely to get sick.
Nobody likes to be in the company of a person who is snappy and irritable, and that’s exactly what you’re likely to exhibit if you have had a number of sleepless nights. People who are sleep deprived are much more likely to react in an extremely unpleasant way to unexpected disruptive events.
9. Learning Challenges
When you haven’t had enough sleep, you simply are unable to learn or retail information as well. Standardized test scores raise significantly when students are allowed to sleep for an hour longer each day, and short-term memory has been shown to suffer substantial impairment with lack of sleep.
10. I Can’t See You…
Most people don’t realize that when they get too little sleep, their vision is very specifically impacted. Double vision, tunnel vision and an experience of dimness and visual errors increase with sleep deprivation.
11. Slowed Reaction Times
Playing soccer or ping pong? You’ll want to make sure that you get plenty of sleep after you hear how badly reaction times are effected by lack of sleep. Whether it’s a question of physical reflexes or the ability to make a decision quickly, sleep deprivation slows down all of the body’s reaction times.
12. Economic Risk Taking
Whether you’re headed to the casino or planning on making adjustments to the holdings in your portfolio, you’re well advised to get plenty of sleep first. Missing out on just a couple of hours of sleep has been shown to increase the incidence of risk-taking behaviors that you might regret when you’re better rested.
If you’re finding yourself unable to remember what was said in your conversations or in the book you’ve been reading, the reason may be as simple as skipping sleep. Our ability to focus is severely impeded by sleep deprivation.