Are you a night owl or an early bird? It does not really matter which one you are, provided that you get enough sleep. The recommended dose is about 7.5 hours a sleep but some people can thrive on less. It is also important that you have a regular sleep schedule which will benefit your health.
Scientists and researchers have done quite a lot of work on why staying up late is bad for your health, so if you are starting to stay up late on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to consider the following risks.
1. You may damage your immune system
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have been studying the effects of irregular sleeping patterns on our immune system. They carried out experiments which show that an overproduction of T cells caused by irregularities in the wake sleep cycle can put the immune system out of sync. That causes inflammation which is a perfectly normal reaction. But when this condition becomes chronic, this can lead to all sorts of diseases which range from diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis to many others. The basic message from Dr. Barry Sears’ book, called The Anti-Inflammation Zone: Reversing the Silent Epidemic That’s Destroying Our Health, is that total wellness is the absence of inflammation.
2. You may damage your brain cells for good
How many times as a student did you stay up really late to prepare for a test? You probably loaded up with caffeine and various types of stimulants to keep you awake. Scientists now have found that by depriving mice of sleep, the part of the brain responsible for staying alert and thinking was irrevocably damaged. Sleeping extra long hours later did not repair the damage either.
In another experiment at MIT, the researchers found that sleep can actually help you to consolidate learning. By depriving your brain of this essential rest, you are actually reducing your brain’s ability to learn.
3. You may gain weight
If you are worried about your weight, staying up late is not really a good idea. First of all, you are awake for that much longer. Hunger rears its ugly head so you have to eat something.
But a much more important factor is your metabolism. It slows down when you do not get enough sleep. One survey found that people who were getting by with just 6 hours a sleep a day were 30% more likely to become overweight than those who were getting the normal amount of 7 or 8 hours.
4. You may have more wrinkles
Staying up late and cutting back on sleep will not do your skin any good. The reason is a pretty simple one. One of the main hormones we produce when stressed out is cortisol. This has been called the ‘death hormone’ because it is linked to the decline of every cell in our body. In addition, the more we age, the more cortisol we produce. The skin is in the frontline as the collagen (which makes up about 90% of your skin) and keeps it firm, gets trounced by cortisol. The result is a lot more wrinkles, rather dull skin and more dark circles under the eyes.
One solution is to get more shut eye because when we sleep, we produce the HGH (human growth hormone) which actually helps to counter the disastrous effects of the cortisol.
5. You are adding to your stress
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America has provided some fascinating research on how lack of sleep may alter your gene function. They have calculated that staying up late and getting less sleep has a deleterious effect on as many as 700 genes in the human body. This has a negative effect on your metabolism but more importantly on your reaction to stress. This ties in very well with other research which shows that reducing sleep may also alter hormonal levels which limit our coping mechanisms with difficult emotional experiences. All this builds up stress and anxiety.
As we have seen, staying up late is just not worth it. The best thing to guarantee a good night’s sleep is to avoid upsetting the wake sleep cycle by using an iPhone in bed. If you are worried about waking up to the sound of an awful alarm clock, forget it. All you have to do is buy a dawn simulator clock which will gently wake you with a simulated natural sunrise very quietly. Sleep well!
Featured photo credit: Sleeping/Pedro Robeiro Simoes via flickr.com