How Insufficient Sleep Can Affect Your Physical Health

Let’s sit and have a chat. Tell me, be honest now – how well do you think you sleep? If you’re like most people on this planet, you are overworked and under-rested.

And we understand why that happens. You are most likely in a competitive work environment, and you often feel left behind, as there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to do all that needs doing.

But sacrificing sleep in term of your work goals is not the answer. Sure, experts preach that you need to “work harder than the other 99%” to amount to anything, but what fun is it to suffer from morbidities in your 40’s, all because of poor sleep patterns?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, sleep deficit (either acute or chronic, but especially longer durations) does have a marked adverse effect on your health and wellbeing.

Don’t fully appreciate the gravity of insufficient sleep on your health? Let’s explore some of the likely (and often, inevitable) ill effects it can have on you:

Weight Gain

When discussing physical symptoms, it is imperative that you discuss the most apparent physical traits; the way you look. Insufficient sleep will cause weight gain, as is the modus operandi of one of the body’s most important hormones, cortisol.

Cortisol is not a bad guy – get that straight. But like everything else in life, too much often spills over and causes a mess. In this case, cortisol promotes water and sodium retention, making you appear puffy and bloated, especially in the lower extremities (the legs) and on your face.

If it suddenly appears like the bags under your eyes have exceeded their carry-on weight, electrolyte and fluid imbalance could be a likely cause. But cortisol doesn’t end there.

It will also upset testosterone synthesis, which while especially important in men, is also necessary in women. Subsequently, estrogen levels rise, and fat storage is upregulated. All this from insufficient sleep!

You Increase Your Risk Of Real Bodily Harm Via Accidents

Accidents are largely avoidable, but then again, they happen when you least expect it. While working with heavy duty machinery in a factory is hazardous on its own, doing it while in a drowsy stupor makes it just about the most dangerous jobs there are.

The same applies to driving. A survey carried out by the United States National Sleep Foundation revealed that in the last year, over 60% of drivers admitted to feeling drowsy at the wheel, while 37% went as far as even falling asleep for a short period of time.

Think of how dangerous that is not only to you, but to those around you.

Your Risk Of Developing Type 2 Diabetes Goes Up

While your diet is the single dominant factor when determining your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, lifestyle takes a close second, followed by your genetic history in third place.

Arguably, lifestyle should be number one, as it is that which determines how well you eat in the first place. But that’s not we’re discussing right now. Rather, it’s the connection between inadequate sleep and your risk of diabetes.

Missing just one night of sleep, or not getting enough rest for that matter, causes transient blood sugar disturbances due to diminished insulin production.

In chronic sleep deprived persons, your risk exponentially increases, but too much sleep in not advisable either. For best results, strive to get about 7-8 hours each night, as this appears to be the sweet spot in minimizing your diabetes risk.

Your Cardiovascular Risk Factors Increase

While cardiovascular disease is at its core what we call an “endocrine” disorder, its manifestations are very physical. Ranging from inability to perform physical tasks, fatigue and a general appearance of malaise.

This increased risk of cardiovascular disease is attributed to cortisol’s excessive actions, a greater presence of blood cholesterol, an immune system that is hyper-responsive and overworked (promoting clot formation), and the extra strain placed on your heart and blood vessels.

All of these attributed to lack of sleep brew up the perfect storm.

Male Reproductive Health Takes a Hit

To start it off, if you’re chronically sleep deprived you probably lack the energy and motivation to want to have sex. Strike one. But that’s not the worst of it.

Studies have shown that men with consistently recurring sleep deprivation have as much as 29% less sperm in semen when compared to men who get sufficient sleep.

This can lend itself to other adverse health effects, especially mental health conditions such as depression.

Your General Resistance To Infection Decreases

While suppressed immunity could be attributed to the enhanced influence of cortisol, there is much more going on here. It is common knowledge that sleep plays an important hand in immunity, but it is not commonly understood exactly why.

To simplify it, the immune system has an important relationship with the brain, which becomes less than optimal when we get insufficient sleep. Neurotransmitters and hormones have an important part to play in ensuring that the connections necessary to transmit information to and from the brain and immune system are functioning as they should.

Lack of sleep adversely affects these chemicals, plus the replication of important immune cells. Acute immunity may not be immediately affected, as there are 2 broad cell types in the immune system – but over time, you will be unable to sufficiently defend yourself from infections.

Immature immune cells are heavily dependent on a normal circadian rhythm for development, which when interrupted prevent their maturation.

Ways to Fix Inadequate Sleep

Luckily, you can fix a sleep debt before things get too far. Just start making changes today, as the longer it drags on the less likely you will recover unscathed. Try the following:

  • Don’t take stimulants too close to bed – these will keep you up unnecessarily long, and sometimes lead to tolerance and dependence on them to get through the day.
  • Swap out your mattress – mattresses weren’t meant to last a lifetime. Having one for 10 years is a stretch, especially if it’s not a premium build. You won’t wear shoes if they are uncomfortable, would you? So why settle for a substandard mattress? Get one that is suited for your sleeping style and body type, to make the time spent in bed truly restorative.
  • Get rid of distractions and stick to a schedule- set aside your phone tablets and turn off the TV by a certain time each night. Your circadian rhythm is adaptable, but not if you sleep at haphazard hours every other night.
  • Exercise earlier in the day – don’t wait too late at night to exercise, but still ensure you get some in during the day hours. This ensures you experience the beneficial endocrine boost and still feel expended come bedtime.

Written By: Kate Corr, The Founder of Best Mattress Expert, a blog dedicated to helping people choose the best mattress brand.

Happy Healthy Life - Editorial Staff

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