This Could Be Why You Can't Lose Weight or Get Healthy, Says Doctor
You know this feeling: after checking news updates, finishing The Queen's Gambit on Netflix, and answering friends on Facebook, it's already middle of the night and you don't have much time left for sleep before the early Zoom call with your boss. And even when you finally go to bed and put away your phone — it's not easy to calm your nerves and fall asleep.
This is bad news for your health because sleep is crucial to a healthy and happy life. It's a time for our minds and bodies to rest, restore, and prepare for the day ahead. When you miss a good night's sleep you feel frustrated, sluggish, distracted, and outright grumpy the next day. But what happens when you are chronically sleep-deprived, and regularly missing the seven to nine hours of sleep recommended for a typical adult? The answer is a host of serious consequences for your body.
The following list of what sleeping too little every day does to your body should be a wake-up call to prioritize a solid sleep care plan. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
You Are Exposed to Viruses
Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, making you more apt to fall ill when exposed to a virus. While sleeping, the immune system releases proteins—some of which are needed to address infections. Missing sleep means fewer virus-fighting proteins to keep you well. And studies suggest sleep deprivation can negatively affect your response to vaccines, too. If you do become sick, lack of sleep can also impact your recovery time, elongating the experience, be it with the common cold or something more serious.
You Could Get Heart Disease and Stroke
Typically, our blood pressure goes down as we sleep. But missing sleep repeatedly can impact the body's ability to regulate stress hormones. As a result of sleep problems, blood pressure can increase—causing hypertension—and that can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke.
You Could Develop Type 2 Diabetes
There is an inverse connection between sleep and blood sugar levels. As sleeping hours decrease, blood sugar increases. Yes, the extra stress hormones we produce when we're light on sleep can help propel us, like pushing us through the day after pulling an "all-nighter." But when lack of sleep is ongoing, it becomes harder for the insulin our pancreas produces to regulate the amount of glucose in our blood. This amplifies the risk of developing diabetes.
You Could Lose Your Sight
Vanity metrics like dark, puffy circles under the eyes are overshadowed by much more concerning long-term consequences of too little sleep. When eyes miss the chance to rest and replenish each night, pressure can build up, causing glaucoma. This serious condition can lead to vision loss.
You Could Gain Weight
Sleep deprivation prevents weight loss and can lead to weight gain. In short, bad sleep makes you hungry. At least two "hunger hormones," ghrelin and leptin, seem to be affected by sleep deprivation. Leptin, the hormone that signals us to stop eating, goes down with poor sleep so there isn't enough around to stop us from going for that second helping. And ghrelin, the hormone that tells us we're hungry, skyrockets so we feel hungry when we shouldn't. When both of these levels are going in the wrong direction, you can be pretty sure your scale is doing the same.
You Could Lose Your Sexual Desire
A lack of sleep can alter your sexual desire. Stress on the body from lack of sleep can affect testosterone and estrogen production, causing erectile dysfunction in men and arousal and orgasm issues in women.
What to Do If You Can't Sleep?
For some people, getting enough sleep requires more than a dedicated bedtime schedule. Sleep disorders can sideline the best of plans, and they're more prevalent than you might realize. One common disorder, sleep apnea, affects an estimated 25 million Americans, and 80 percent of those suffering from the disease don't know they're in danger. The disease can cause you to wake as many as 100 times an hour, often subconsciously, and left untreated, the risks for the body are serious.
While the downsides of poor sleep in this instance are daunting, the upside is that sleep disorders are often easy to treat. If sleeping problems are temporary you should check these simple tips for the best night's sleep. But, if you have an inkling that something isn't quite right (or a bed partner that complains about disruptive snoring that's affecting their shut eye), check-in with a medical professional. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
About the Author: Dr. Daniel Rifkin is the founder and CEO of Ognomy. As a board-certified neurologist and sleep specialist, Dr. Rifkin has 23 years of experience in the practice of sleep medicine and is a published expert in his field.