Woefully tired every time your alarms go off early in the morning? If so, you aren’t alone – not by a long shot, actually, because chronic lack of sleep seems to be a distinguishing feature of modern society: the average American adult gets less than 7 hours of sleep each night.
But is sleep loss really that big of a deal? Other than the near-infinite sequence of yawns it might induce during early-morning meetings – not to mention puffy, tired-looking eyes – are there any serious consequences of not getting ample sleep?
As it turns out, sleep loss comes with quite a few possible consequences. In the past decades, as chronic sleep deprivation has become a rather rampant phenomenon, scientists have meticulously researched the effects of sleep loss on one’s health and well-being (in fact, you can now check how your sleep schedule affects some of your body’s key hormones with EverlyWell’s Sleep and Stress Test). And the effects are – more often than not – destructive to one’s well-being and far from beneficial.
Consider, for instance, these 10 consequences of lack of sleep.
Negative effects on memory
Sleep is vital for the formation of memories in your mind. It stands to reason, then, that a lack of sleep can impair your working memory. This is supported by a wealth of research; for example, sleep loss reduces your ability to recall specific objects.
Greater risk of depression
Perhaps you’ve been feeling pretty gloomy lately – with a headspace full of depressed thoughts. That could be because you’re not getting enough sleep, as symptoms of depression are associated with sleep loss.
Increased risk of anxiety
If your day-to-day anxiety has been through the roof lately, it’s possible that you’re living a sleep-deprived existence: scientists believe that lack of sleep can change how the brain anticipates impending events – and can thus directly cause anxiety.
More suicidal ideation
Getting sufficient sleep appears to be so important for one’s well-being that sleep loss is linked to a significantly higher rate of suicidal ideation and attempts. (Note that if you or someone you know is suicidal, it’s recommended that you call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)
Higher risk of type 2 diabetes
Both quantity and quality of sleep affect your body’s hormone levels – including the hormones involved in glucose metabolism – so it’s little wonder that lack of sleep can increase the risk of various diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Elevated risk of obesity
Your risk of obesity could rise if you’re constantly low on sleep. That’s because lack of sleep can elevate your levels of the “hunger hormone” known as ghrelin – which (as its nickname suggests) makes you feel hungrier. Over the long-term, then, sleep loss can cause you to eat more and thus gain weight.
Higher risk of motor vehicle crash
Driving-while-sleepy can be just as dangerous as driving-while-intoxicated. Every year, tens of thousands of car accidents occur – many of them fatal – because of sleep-deprived driving. So next time you’re behind the wheel on a long, seemingly never-ending road trip and you’re starting to feel drowsy, stop putting the pedal to the metal. Instead, find a safe spot to park your vehicle and catch some rest.
Greater risk of autoimmune diseases
Sleep isn’t just involved in your appetite – it also has a major impact on your immune system. So sleep loss is a risk factor for several autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Maybe you’ve got a big presentation coming up sometime this week. Supposing that’s the case, then you might want to consider spending ample time in slumberland. Why? Chronic sleep loss, it seems, can lead to monotononous, unclear speech.
Increased blood pressure
If your blood pressure has been climbing, it may be time to have a look at your sleep schedule: lack of sleep is known to elevate blood pressure – a condition known as hypertension. Hypertension, in turn, is a major risk factor for a number of cardiovascular diseases.
As these possible consequences of sleep deprivation clearly indicate, sleep is absolutely critical to your long-term health and wellness. So if you’ve had a hard time getting enough rest, try EverlyWell’s Sleep and Stress Test and discover what you can do to improve your sleep and live a more well-rested life.
One more thing: if you’re reading this article late at night, consider turning off your device to get your fair share of shut-eye!