Sleep Deprivation: 6 Ways It Hurts Your Health

We all know a solid amount of snooze time is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We attempt to get our recommended seven to nine hours and try not to mess with our natural REM cycle too much. But while sleep may seem simple enough, it actually affects your body in a number of ways you probably didn’t realize. Check out how sleep deprivation impacts your health and well-being.

1. Sleep makes our memories more accessible

man fast asleep

Sleep really helps your brain. | iStock.com

At this point, most of us are aware that sleep helps our brain retain memories. It’s why we were always advised to get a good night’s sleep before a big test in college or an important presentation at work. But according to a study from The University of Exeter, sleep also improves our ability to recall previously forgotten memories. In fact, the study shows that after subjects received a full night’s sleep, they were able to recall memories that had been forgotten while awake during a 12-hour period. These findings support the notion that memories from the day are sharpened overnight.

2. Interrupted sleep is just as bad as no sleep

If you’re a parent, then interrupted sleep is most likely a nightly struggle. With a new baby around, it’s rare to sleep through the night, leaving you feeling like you didn’t sleep at all. A study from Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences revealed that interrupted sleep is just as detrimental to your body as no sleep. The researchers found that interrupted sleep causes compromised cognitive abilities, shortened attention spans, and negative moods. Though this was a relatively small study, it’s not the only example.

3. Less sleep causes reduced pain tolerance

woman massaging her painful neck

Less sleep means you’ll be more sensitive to pain. | iStock.com/SIphotography

In a study that observed more than 10,000 subjects, researchers found that individuals with impaired sleep also had increased sensitivity to pain. In the study, each subject was given a pain sensitivity test, which required keeping his or her hand submerged in a cold water bath. They were also each asked various questions about their sleep patterns including their average total sleep time and amount of time it took for them to fall asleep. When the results were compared, it was clear that individuals who had sleep impairment also had higher levels of pain sensitivity.

4. Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to read people

Do you ever find yourself confusing a friend’s smile for a frown? If so, you’re probably not sleeping enough. According to a study at the University of Berkeley, sleep deprivation hinders our ability to read facial expressions. In the study, 18 young adults viewed 70 different facial expressions, once after sleeping a full amount, and another time after staying awake for 24 hours. The subjects looked at faces whose expressions ranged from kind to threatening. While scanning subject’s brains, the researchers discovered that when sleep deprived, subject’s brains couldn’t distinguish between the different expressions. It’s worth noting this is a very small sample size, but it’s still pretty interesting.

5. Losing sleep makes you gain weight

Womans feet on weighing scale

Sleep can aid your weight loss goals. | iStock.com

Even if you’re working out an hour every day, hydrating sufficiently, and sticking to a healthy diet, if you’re not getting a proper amount of sleep per night, then there’s a good chance you won’t be shedding pounds any time soon. Many studies in the past have shown that significant reduced sleep is linked to a lowered metabolism. However, some research suggests simply losing 30 minutes of sleep per day can promote weight gain. After observing 522 subjects over 12 weeks, the researchers found that for every 30 minutes lost sleep, the risk of obesity and insulin resistance was significantly increased by 17% and 39%, respectively.

6. Sleep less, eat more

In review related to diet and sleep, researchers Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy Nelson of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found a link between the amount of sleep we get and the amount of food we eat as a result. For example, after a bad night’s sleep, the hormone controlling appetite is affected, emotional stress is greater, more food is desired to compensate for lack of energy, and impulsivity increases, all of which affect the amount of food that you consume in a day. In other words, if you want to stop overeating, make sleep a priority!

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