The average adult needs eight hours of sleep per night. This differs from person to person so you might need less sleep if you’re some sort of superhero or something. For example, you don’t expect Batman to sleep a full eight hours, do you now? We’ve all heard about the power houses throughout history who supposedly slept very little. Inventor Nikola Tesla reportedly only had around two hours of sleep per day. I wonder how he did it. I would look like an extra from The Walking Dead if I only had two hours of sleep.
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Many of us would like to live by this model though, we’d give our right arm if it meant that we could cram as much into our days as possible. We have busy work and home schedules that need to be adhered to, which unfortunately means that we don’t always have enough time to get a good night’s rest.
But the truth is that a lack of sleep can have shocking short-term and long-term effects on your health and lifestyle. According to experts at Harvard University we need to start “treating sleep as a priority, rather than a luxury” in order to prevent the adverse effects a lack of sleep can cause. And so we’re not all walking around like zombies.
Here’s why you really need to be getting more sleep:
1. Sleep Deprivation Affects Cognitive Function
When you’re sleepy you have a much slower reaction time. This means you’re much more likely to cause harm to yourself and others. For example, if you don’t get enough sleep it’s that much easier to poke yourself right in the eye when doing your makeup in the morning.
Seriously though, driving fatigued can be just as bad as driving drunk and is responsible for up to 100,000 car accidents in the US each year. Some people who don’t sleep enough suffer from what is called “micro sleep” which means you can fall asleep for a few seconds during the day without realising it. This is clearly highly dangerous if you’re driving.
Studies have shown that you’re also much more likely to have an accident at work if you’re regularly tired during the day time and we don’t just mean spilling your coffee. Therefore, people who have jobs that involve driving or jobs that carry a lot of risk cannot afford to be tired at work.
2. Sleep Is Necessary to Maintain Your Immune System
If you don’t get the Z’s you need you can mess up your immune system meaning that it won’t be able to fight off the bugs that cause illnesses such as colds and flu, as well as it should be able to. So a lack of sleep can turn you into a snivelly mess. Not only do you feel like crap when you have a cold, it can be super inconvenient as you’ll most probably end up bed-ridden for days, which is obviously detrimental to your work and your wallet.
3. Lack of Sleep Can Make you Put on Weight
I wonder if the opposite works. Can you get really skinny if you get lots of sleep? If that’s the case, it means that Victoria’s Secret models are getting their regular 22 hours of sleep and we’ve been doing it wrong.
People who put a lot of effort into maintaining their weight and fitness levels will not be happy to hear this fact. Studies show that insufficient sleep is one of the risk factors associated with obesity, along with overeating and insufficient exercise of course. The results of such studies have proven that people who get less than 6 hours of sleep are more likely to have a high BMI, while those who get eight hours or more have the lowest BMIs. Ugh!
This is due to the way in which a lack of sleep affects the balance of hormones. While we’re sleeping the body secretes hormones that control our energy metabolism, appetite and glucose processing. A lack of sleep is also linked to a greater production of insulin after mealtimes which can lead to weight gain and even diabetes. So getting more sleep is a good way to fight the flab and prevent more serious health risks.
4. Sleep Problems Can Lead to Serious Mental Health Problems
You know that when you’re tired you’re a lot more emotional, you’re basically a massive grumposaurus rex. But studies have shown that the effects that sleep can have on your mental health run a lot deeper than this. A 2005 Sleep in America study showed that people suffering from anxiety and depression tend to have fewer than six hours sleep per night.
Serious sleep conditions have also been linked to depression. Insomniacs are five times more likely to suffer from depression and insomnia can also be one of the first symptoms that people with depression experience. It seems to be a vicious circle, depression makes insomnia worse, while insomnia makes depression worse. These are both grave conditions that need to be treated seriously and as soon as possible. Nobody wants to experience the terrible symptoms that go hand in hand with either of these illnesses. In all seriousness, has everybody got that Faithless song stuck in their head now?
5. Sleep Deprivation Can Cause Fatal Health Issues
Now we get to the serious health biz. It is estimated that 90 percent of people with insomnia also have at least one other health condition. You’re more likely to suffer from the following conditions if you have a sleep disorder or poor sleep habits in the long-term:
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
Take a nap right now man because your cardiovascular health is seriously affected by your sleep patterns. This is because while you sleep your body is able to heal and repair blood vessels and the heart. If a person with hypertension doesn’t get enough sleep for just one night their blood pressure will be at an elevated level the next day. It’s hard to believe that something we don’t pay much attention to, sleep, can cause such serious and life-threatening health problems.
Sleep is vital because your internal organs and systems need time to rest and recuperate. A failure to get enough sleep can lead to both minor and major health problems or at the very least make you fat and grumpy. What’s more, your mental capacities are greatly reduced through sleep deprivation. This means you’re less productive, less creative, less able to concentrate and therefore will in no way shape or form perform to the best of your abilities at work.
It’s easy enough to say, “Get more sleep,” but for many people it’s not that simple. Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders need to be treated properly and with medical or psychological help. Everyone can make simple changes to improve their sleeping habits however. This involves things like taking the time to wind down properly at night and trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. We all deserve to get a good night’s rest.