Why is it that we as a people tend to take sleep for granted? Maybe it’s not “interesting” enough? Or maybe it’s seen as weakness, time that you could spend being more productive.
Trust me, there are 1001 excuses why sleep is for the weak and not as important as it is made out to be, but 99.9% of the time those reasons and justifications are pure nonsense.
Just one night of acute sleep deprivation can spell trouble for your body- both physically and mentally. So, if you value “high performance” as much as you claim to, sleep cannot be underestimated.
Want to know what losing one night of sleep can do to people? Then read on (but try to stay awake after all!)
Your Blood Sugar May Rise
High blood sugar levels are good for nothing, except maybe damaging cells. But this is exactly one of the changes that occur following acute sleep deprivation.
It is believed that insulin secretion drops, which may also coincide with the altered sensitivity of this hormone; almost as if insulin is working in a “sleepwalking state”. Sure, it will do its job, but at an efficiency that leaves much to be desired.
While the effect of just losing a single night’s sleep is bad enough, this effect can easily compound into something much worse- type 2 diabetes.
Ideally, 7-8 hours of shut-eye per night is best, as a review of multiple studies has indicated that getting much more than this is also associated with a higher chance of developing diabetes.
Your Stress Hormone Levels Are Elevated
We already live in a world with ridiculous amounts of stress, so why would we want to add more? Well, turns out that you have been inadvertently making yourself more susceptible to the effects of stress when you choose to work instead of sleep.
We get it, you have a busy life, but unless you want to have a SHORT LIFE, get to bed. A study analyzed the sleeping patterns of people that get a full night’s sleep, as well as people who get no sleep at all, and the results are clear…
…. just one day following a night of poor sleep, blood levels of the stress hormone are much higher. That means, expect tomorrow night to be much worse.
Lack Of Sleep Makes You More Susceptible To Colds And Infections
Though missing a single night of sleep won’t do a great amount of damage, it certainly sets the wheels of immune suppression into motion. But rest assured, when sleep deprivation occurs, it usually occurs in phases- missing days which leads to weeks and even more.
This is noteworthy, as a study investigated individuals’ susceptibility to the rhinovirus (commonly associated with the cold), by monitoring sleep patterns in the weeks leading up to a seasonal outbreak.
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a continuous basis was shown to increase your susceptibility by a factor of more than 5, while occasional nights of poor sleep still yielded a 2.95 increased risk.
These risks are relative to persons sleeping 8 or more hours nightly and reinforce the importance of hitting the hay early.
Not sleeping? Chances are you’ll be eating instead. This isn’t just a superficial habit, but one that is the result of hormones at play.
Leptin and ghrelin regulate hunger, with leptin telling you it’s time to stop, and ghrelin dictating when to eat more. Sleep deprivation causes leptin levels to drop, and ghrelin to raise, causing constant nighttime munchies.
Maybe it’s your body thinking something bad is going down, and urging you to stock up by eating as much as possible. Whatever the reason, it’s bad news.
Your Brain Struggles To Keep Up
In general, a compound known as adenosine dictates your level of sleepiness, determined by your body’s natural circadian rhythm. It also knows when it’s time to leave these adenosine receptors in the brain, and start to allow your body to wake up.
However, altering you sleep time by going to bed later, or waking up sooner confuses this process, and your brain is ill-equipped to deal with it – at least until it picks up your bad habits.
In the meanwhile, you can expect to see a marked decrease in your brains’ processing capability and cognitive performance- you will be slower, less efficient at figuring out complex details, and will be more prone to forget something you just heard. You are also likely to find it hard to concentrate and will become more irritable.
Your Sleep Prescription
Scared now aren’t you? Good, you ought to be! Of course, you need not experience the worse of it, as sleep is a very refreshing and restorative experience. Here’s how you can milk it for all it’s worth:
Set A Schedule
Hit the sack at a fixed time every night, and wake up the same time every morning. Easiest and most actionable tips to improve the quality of your sleep and the amount you get every night consistently.
Get A Comfortable Mattress
Not all mattresses are the same, so it is critical you find one that works for your body. If you have any pre-existing conditions, opt for a bed that can facilitate restful sleep.
The importance of getting a mattress suited to you cannot be overemphasized. For example, individuals with venous insufficiency (such as varicose veins) tend to sleep better on beds that elevate the legs.
This is one of the best investments you can make in your overall health, yet many people choose cheap inferior mattresses.
Sleep In The Dark
Your circadian rhythm is a smart clock, but one that is barraged with artificial light. In the dark, melatonin is produced, which promoted deep restful sleep. Save the light exposure to times you plan on being awake, and sleep in as dark a room as possible.
Make Exercise A Must, But Not Too Close To Bedtime
Exercise boosts levels of endorphins- chemicals which promote a good mood and boasts multiple other health benefits, such as reducing your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
But exercise also amps up your epinephrine and norepinephrine synthesis- compounds which stimulate and excited. This is why it is advised to exercise early evening at the latest, so at to ensure you reap the benefits of endorphins but not suffer from sleep loss.