You know that feeling when you haven’t had enough sleep. I very rarely get a full night’s sleep. I fight going to bed like a 2-year-old child. But then, the next morning I am dragging around, irritable and simply not at my best. I swear I will go to bed early that night, yet I will stay up late again.
You may already know that lack of can affect your memory, concentration and mood. You may be surprised to learn that there can be even more serious side effects to sleep loss.
Here are 8 serious dangers of sleep loss and insomnia:
One of the biggest reasons to get more sleep is to avoid the risk of developing serious, chronic diseases. Studies have shown that people who suffer from insomnia and sleep loss also have a chronic health condition. These common diseases include stroke, heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure and diabetes. Sleep deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
Serious accidents have been linked to poor sleep and fatigue. Some of the world’s biggest disasters may have involved sleep deprivation, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. Sleep loss can be dangerous in everyday life, too. Driving when tired can slow your reaction time as much as driving drunk. You are also more prone to accidents and injuries at home when you’re tired.
Over time, lack of sleep can contribute to the symptoms of depression. Studies have shown that people who suffer from anxiety and depression often sleep less than six hours on average a night. Insomnia has the strongest link to depression. Insomnia and depression can feed on each other. Lack of sleep can aggravate depression symptoms, and being depressed can make it more difficult to sleep.
Sleep plays an important role in your thinking process and learning. Lack of sleep impairs your cognitive processes in several ways. You are less alert, have trouble concentrating, reasoning and solving problems. These side effects of sleep deprivation also make it difficult to learn and put forth your best effort.
Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite. There is a link between sleep and the peptides that regulate appetite. Sleep loss can also stimulate cravings for high-fat and high-carbohydrate foods. Throwing your appetite out of whack also increases your likelihood to overeat, and this may contribute to obesity over time.
When you sleep, your brain consolidates memories, which helps make the things you have learned throughout the day easier to access and recall. Your brain also transfers short-term information to where it can be stored for long-term knowledge. This transfer occurs in the deepest part of the sleep cycle, so losing sleep can hurt your long-term memory and contribute to forgetfulness.
While one night of missed sleep can lead to puffy eyes or dark circles, continual sleep loss can cause more lasting skin damage. Sallow skin and fine lines across the face, as well as dark circles, can become more permanent over time. The elasticity of the skin can also become more damaged when you don’t get enough sleep.
Your mind and body can do a better job of managing stress when you are more rested. Fatigue can put an added strain on your body and contribute to anxiety and make it more difficult to make decisions. Stress can also be harmful to your overall well-being and make it harder to maintain life balance.
Learn more about improving your sleep habits in our blog “11 tips to getting a good night’s sleep.”