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You Need Sleep: The Real Cost of Late Nights Out

7 minute read

You are all too familiar with getting too little sleep. Whether it’s a late night having fun or working, we often wake up wishing we had more time in bed.

You end up a little irritable and tired the next day. While this may seem bearable and you can get through your day with some coffee or an energy drink, continual lack of sleep can cause some serious health problems.

Why Aren’t You Sleeping?

We have been trying to survive on six hours of sleep a night or fewer for the last century, and have become a seriously sleep-deprived society. We work more than we used to and are more committed to getting things done each day.

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This means our brains are not ready for bed when our body is. With work keeping us so busy, time with friends and family becomes limited, so rather than give that up, we give up sleep.

Additionally, increased stress, the availability of caffeine, and consumption of alcohol all play a role in depriving our bodies of sleep.

Full moon over Seattle

Sleep is necessary for your body to rest and recharge from the day’s activities. Without sleep, there is increased risk of disease and illness.

The shorter your regular sleep time is, the shorter your life will be too. Adults should be getting close to eight hours of sleep a night, on average; although there is a variance among individuals in this regard, ranging from 7 to 9 hours per night for optimal health.

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Understandably, there will be those occasions where this just isn’t realistic. It is important to understand that a few nights here and there of low quality sleep is not going to do much harm.  Night after night of only getting a few hours of sleep, however, will start to take its toll, as you develop a sleep debt.

Why You Need Your Sleep

You have felt the effects of one night of little sleep: you are fatigued and your ability to function is not optimal. It makes sense that the more nights you have like this, the more those feelings will be multiplied.

Habitually sleeping less than 7 hours a night or more than 9 hours can be seriously damaging to your health. On a regular basis, bad sleeping habits can cause chronic medical issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even cancer.

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Your health can gradually decline with a repeated lack of sleep, and the toll taken can shorten your lifespan substantially.

Worried woman

Sleep and Obesity: There have been numerous studies that have linked insufficient sleep and weight gain. People with close to eight hours of sleep on a regular basis report lower BMI than those sleeping less than six hours a night.  

Along with overeating and a lack of exercise, insufficient sleep is now labelled as a major contributor to obesity.

As you sleep, your body releases hormones that regulate and control appetite and energy metabolism. Lack of sleep disrupts the balance of these hormones, causing increased insulin secretion for example.

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Increased insulin in the blood has been associated with weight gain and is a risk factor for diabetes. Too little sleep also lowers levels of leptin, a hormone that tells the brain you had enough to eat, which means you are likely to have more cravings the next day.

Sleep and Heart Health: For individuals that already have hypertension, a single night of inadequate sleep elevates blood pressure through the course of the next day. This is thought to be the reasoning behind the link found between a lack of sleep and cardiovascular disease and stroke.  

People suffering from sleep apnea, a condition where the airway closes, forcing you to wake several times a night, also experience surges in their blood pressure. This constant elevation causes hypertension and can lead to heart disease, so it is recommended to get sleep apnea treated right away.

A woman sleeping with CPAP machine on

Sleep and Your Mood: A lack of sleep does more than just make you a little grumpy the next day: chronic insufficient sleep can cause long-term mood disorders. On a continual basis, a lack of sleep has been correlated with depression, anxiety, and mental distress.

People with insufficient sleep reported low levels of optimism and a lack of desire to be sociable as compared to those who slept at least eight hours a night. Studies have shown that when sleep schedules returned to normal, moods also shifted to be more positive.

Sleep and Immunity: When you are sick, you naturally feel like going to bed. The reason behind this is because during sleep your immune system produces substances that help to fight infections.

The more you can sleep, the better able you are to fend off any attacking bacteria and viruses. This means that those not getting enough sleep will not only have trouble fighting off any current colds, but it may weaken their immune system, putting them at a disadvantage when the next virus shows up.

Sleep More, Live Longer

Given the serious diseases and health conditions that can arise as a result of insufficient sleep, it makes sense that a lack of sleep is highly correlated with shorter life expectancy. Sleeping five hours or fewer each night for an extended time can increase your mortality risk by fifteen percent.  

Researchers are aware that, just as sleep can contribute to the development of disease, there are diseases that cause a lack of sleep.  

A woman soundly sleeping in peace

Sleep disorders are not uncommon, and the awareness of them continues to increase. The better we come to understand these disorders, the better able we can address and treat them, so people can get back to healthy sleep schedules.  

The Bottom Line

A lack of sleep can hijack your body’s ability to control important hormones as well as interfere with your immune system. Whatever is keeping you from sleeping needs to be addressed, before your health suffers on a more permanent level.

Sleep is a vital component to your overall good health and well-being. If you are not getting enough, have a loved one write you a prescription and then head straight to bed.

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