A shortage of shut-eye can leave you feeling tired, cranky, hungry, and irritable. But it turns out, a lack of sleep can affect you in a lot of ways that go beyond triggering those basic feelings. And that’s a problem, since 53 percent of Americans are snoozing less than the recommended seven hours each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. So what can a shortage of shut-eye cause? Only some of the crazy effects that follow.
1. You get yourself into trouble at work
It annoys you when John makes an unusually long grunt when he yawns and stretches at his desk even when you’re well rested. It’s no wonder you feel like strangling him when he does this when you haven’t gotten enough sleep; you get incredibly irritable on the job. Everything takes you over the edge, and you’re ready to snap at anyone who rubs you the wrong way. Moreover, research shows that you’re more likely to engage in deviant behavior at work compared to your well-rested co-workers. The reason? Being sleep deprived drains glucose in the pre-frontal cortex of your brain. Basically, running on minimal sleep robs the fuel from the self-control center of the brain. This leads to an impaired ability to self regulate your actions at work. Unethical work behavior like falsifying recipes, stealing from the workplace, working slow on purpose, and gossiping about other co-workers are things you leave yourself vulnerable to when you don’t get enough shut-eye.
2. Slowly, you get depressed
Chronic lack of sleep can lead you down a path to depression. The relationship between sleep and depressive illness is complex – depression may cause sleep problems and sleep problems may cause or contribute to depressive disorder. However, lack of sleep or the inability to fall asleep is a red flag for depression. When sleep is disrupted or frequently inadequate it increases tension, irritability, fatigue, less exercise, and a lower level of vitality and fitness. This lends itself to depression. In fact, in a 2007 study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without.
3. You overeat and get fat
You still eat the same way you ate 5 years ago when you were lean and trim. Now, none of your jeans fit. What happened? Lack of sleep affects your hunger and appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin. More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain. Referring back to your ability to regulate your actions and behavior (see number 1), it’s no wonder that people who lack sufficient sleep snack more, make poor food decisions, and overeat. Virend Somers, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, conducted a study that showed people who slept 80 minutes less a night on average, overate about 550 calories the following day.
4. You’re a risk behind the wheel
Lack of sleep and fatigue are responsible for some of the most recent disasters: the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Cherynbol, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. But further investigation of the impact of fatigue and sleepiness show that this is a real problem in our everyday lives. In particular, behind the wheel while driving a vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. These figures probably don’t account for all “drowsy driving” incidents since it’s difficult to detect. The glaring cause of this risk is the cognitive impairment similarities between sleep deprivation and alcohol intoxication. Cognitive impairment after approximately 18 hours awake is similar to that of someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. After about 24 hours awake, impairment is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10%, higher than the legal limit in all states.
5. Your testosterone dips
For men who are constantly fatigued, have little sexual drive, and a dwindling vitality for life low testosterone could be the issue. What is often overlooked as the cause however, is adequate sleep. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported the effect of one week of sleep restriction in young healthy men. The 10 men who were studied, were only allowed 5 hours of sleep a night. The study demonstrated that their testosterone levels dipped by 10-15%. This is largely due to the fact that testosterone production is replenished during rest.
3 simple tips to get more restful sleep
Avoid caffeine. Tea, coffee, soda and energy drinks can keep you awake for up to 12 hours. Caffeine has a sneaky half life that lingers hours after you consume it. If you take 200mg of caffeine at 12 noon, 10omg of caffeine lingers in your system for up 4-6 hours depending on your sensitivity. Instead, when your mid-afternoon slump hits, try an energizing snack like nuts or yogurt.
Nest. Make your bed as comfortable as possible. Keep your sleep environment dark, cool and work-free.
Find a sleep schedule . About an hour before bedtime, start a nightly relaxation routine that can include reading, taking a bath or anything else that soothes you. Complete all exercise at least three hours before bedtime. Don’t look at screens before you go to sleep, which can stimulate your brain.
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