Americans are sleep deprived. In fact, according to the CDC, it’s a full-blown public health problem – almost a third of all working people in the country get less than six or seven hours of shuteye a night.
Be sure to recognize the signs of sleep deprivation. It can cause your brain to shrink, increase your blood pressure, and make you very tired. Also, driving while sleepy and exhausted is a bad idea, as it slows your reactions by more than three times.
But there are other, lesser-known ways in which sleep affects your overall health as the lack of it is one of the worst things for the body. Don’t forget about that the next time you decide to stay up an extra hour and work on a project.
Helps with weight gain/loss
Science has confirmed time and again that fewer hours of quality shut-eye affects your waistline. Lack of sleep affects the brain in a way that makes you want to eat more and not process food efficiently. It sparks a vicious cycle where you are left feeling tired, slowing your metabolism and playing tricks with your hormones.
“By sleeping less, you are programming your body to eat more,” Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, says. There are at least 14 ways sleep deprivation makes you gain extra pounds.
Growth hormones are affected
Hormones that promote growth are released during sleep when your body and mind are resting. This is when the body is producing proteins that help cells repair damage. Lack of sleep causes exhaustion, which mean your brain is not functioning to the best of its ability.
This is especially serious for kids, even in their teenage years. When children do not get enough sleep, specifically the deep stage of rapid eye movement (REM), growth slows and ultimately can even become stunted, according to the Sleep Apnea Institute.
Lack of sleep makes you susceptible to diseases
Studies, according to Harvard Medical School, show that sleeping less than five hours a night increases the risk of death from all causes by about 15 percent. Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity by eating more, diabetes by influencing the way the body processes glucose, high blood pressure, and depression. Trouble sleeping is a sign you may have a mood disorder.
You sleep position matters a lot
Back sleeping is a no-no for snorers and those with sleep apnea; side sleeping is best because it helps keep your airways open, according to WebMD. “Research suggests sleeping on the left side can relieve heartburn symptoms, while right-side sleeping makes them worse.” Sleeping on the left side is also recommended during pregnancy to improve circulation to the heart.
Your skin looks older
You’ve heard of beauty sleep, right? But it has a lot more to do with baggy eyes. When you’re sleep deprived, the body releases cortisol, the stress hormone. It breaks down collagen, making your skin vulnerable to wrinkles, discoloration and paleness.
Also, the skin needs human growth hormone to replenish. HGH is released while you’re sleeping.