Are you getting enough sleep? We all know that we should be aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but are you really? I know tons of people surviving on 5-6 hours, who report feeling just fine.

Unfortunately, those missing 1-4 hours will catch up with you one day. Studies show that lack of sleep could have long term detrimental effects on your brain, immune system, hormones, metabolism, and many other vital bodily functions.

This week’s blog discusses the different ways sleep deprivation can effect your body!

The 9 Ways A Lack of Sleep Can Harm Your Health

Lack of sleep can contribute to the following:

1. Hormonal disruption – Lack of sleep affects hormone levels. A disrupted circadian rhythm may create shifts in hormones like melatonin. Melatonin is made in the brain by converting tryptophan into serotonin and then into melatonin, which is released at night by the pineal gland in the brain to induce and maintain sleep. Melatonin is also an antioxidant that helps suppress harmful free radicals in the body and slows the production of estrogens, which may activate cancer. A link between cancer and the disrupted circadian rhythm lies with a hormone called cortisol, which normally reaches peak levels at dawn then declines throughout the day. When you don’t get enough sleep, your cortisol levels don’t peak as they should. Cortisol is one of many hormones that help regulate immune system activity, including natural-killer cells that help the body battle cancer.

2. Heart Attack and Stroke – Lack of sleep has been associated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both potential risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Your heart will be healthier if you get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

3. Stress – When your body is sleep-deficient, it goes into a state of stress, creating an increase in blood pressure and production of stress hormones. The stress hormones unfortunately make it even harder for you to sleep. Since reducing stress will allow your body to get a more restful sleep, learn relaxation techniques that will help counter the effects of stress.

4. Inflammation – When you don’t get enough sleep, the level of inflammation in your body also rises. Inflammation is thought to be one of the main causes of the body’s deterioration, creating more risk for heart conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes.

5. Energy level – A good night’s sleep makes you energized and alert the next day. Being engaged and active not only feels great, it increases your chances for another good night’s sleep. When you wake up feeling refreshed and you use that energy to get out into the daylight, and to be active and engaged in your world, you sleep better that night.

6. Memory – Researchers don’t fully understand why we sleep and dream but a process called “memory consolidation” occurs while we sleep. While your body may be resting, your brain is busy processing your day and making connections between events, sensory input, feelings, and memories. Getting a good night’s sleep will help you remember and process things better.;

7. Weight – Researchers have found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It’s believed that the lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones in the body that affect appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin, important for the regulation of appetite, have been found to be disrupted by lack of sleep.

8. Depression – Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in your body, including serotonin. People with a deficiency in serotonin are more likely to suffer from depression. You can help prevent depression by making sure you are getting the right amount of sleep.

9. Body Repair and Detoxification– Sleep is the time when your body repairs damage —everything from a wound to a sunburn. Your cells produce more protein while you’re sleeping. Proteins are the building blocks for your cells, and these proteins also enable cells to repair damage from our daily activities. In addition, adequate rest helps the body’s detox pathways function more efficiently.

I know, that’s a heck of a long list! But it speaks volumes as to why 7-9 hours of sleep a night is necessary.

Have trouble sleeping? Don’t fret! In my next blog, I’ll share tips on how to get to sleep and stay asleep! Stay tuned!

Brain Health9 Ways A Lack of Sleep Can Harm Your Health