We all know the feeling. You wake up in the morning, still tired from the night before. You muster the strength to get out of bed only to walk around your apartment, zombie-like until you manage to brew yourself a cup of coffee. “I’ll just catch up on sleep on the weekend,” you reassure yourself, despite having done this for the past month.
With a thousand things clawing for our attention every day, it has become easier than ever to sacrifice sleep. However, the consequences of foregoing sleep are dire. Sleep is a vital health function, allowing our body to rest and rejuvenate. Here are just a few reasons you should make sure you’re getting enough sleep tonight.
1. The less you sleep, the more likely you are to eat
When you are sleep deprived, your body’s hormone production changes dramatically. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin--the hormone which curbs appetite--and increases ghrelin--the hunger hormone--leaving you hungrier and less satisfied with your food. The consequences of this hormonal shift are immediate and apparent. A study by the University of Colorado on sleep deprivation concluded that just one week of sleeping five hours a night can lead to nearly 2 extra pounds(!).
2. Sleep deprivation makes you cranky
Have a short temper? You might not be getting enough sleep. When we are sleep deprived, the amygdala--the part of our brain that controls our fight or flight response--becomes hyperactive. With a heightened amygdala, our emotions intensify and we react impulsively and thoughtlessly to otherwise manageable situations.
3. Your skin needs sleep to regenerate and heal
With skincare, prevention is the best treatment, and sleep is one of the most overlooked solutions. Sleep deprivation leads to increased fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced skin elasticity. A study also showed that your skin has more difficulty fighting toxins like UV rays without sleep. Your skin takes a beating every day from environmental toxins, so it’s important to give it the chance to replenish and recuperate each night.
4. Sleep boosts your immune system
If it seems like you perpetually have a cold, lack of sleep may be the cause. During sleep, your body produces infection-fighting cytokines to protect your immune system from infection and disease. Little or low-quality sleep also reduces infection-fighting antibodies which can severely impede your immune system. No amount of multivitamins can help you fight off the common cold better than getting a full night’s sleep.
5. Increase your productivity and focus
While counterintuitive to the numerous all-nighters you pulled during college, getting a consistent full night’s sleep helps you increase your focus and productivity. Sleep deprivation also reduces your ability to learn and process new things, since the processes that consolidate and integrate new information into your memory occur during the deep stages of sleep.
So how much sleep should you get?
Unless you’re one of the lucky few who can get by on six hours or less (about 1% of the population), the recommended hours of sleep is 7-8 hours (that’s 7-8 hours of sleep, not 7-8 hours in bed). It’s also important to point out the importance of consistency. Getting just six hours of sleep a night leads to the same drop in performance as staying awake for two nights in a row! So while you may be getting to sleep every night, you might not be getting enough.
In our busy lives, it’s easy to overlook the benefits of sleep, but forgoing sleep night after night can have dire consequences for your health. So tonight, try heading to bed just a little bit earlier. Who knows? You might thank yourself for it in the future.