It’s often said that everything in life seems normal until you think about it properly. Why is it that we need to engage in this strange activity called “sleep?” Why do we have to spend hour after hour unconscious during the night with our bodies lying on a soft mattress and our heads supported by a downy pillow? And why do we suffer terribly in our waking lives if we don’t?
What sleep actually is remains somewhat mysterious to scientists. Generally, there’s an understanding that sleep is a particular pattern of brain waves, but that glosses over the complexity of the activity. Sleep isn’t just one thing, but rather an unconscious brain state marked by distinct stages all linked together in a cycle. Sleep is different from one person to the next, with some people experiencing particular kinds of brain activities separate from someone else.
When we don’t get enough sleep, things can go wrong pretty quickly. Our bodies need sleep for the maintenance and recovery of numerous biological systems, so when we don’t get the rest we need, these systems begin to suffer.
If you feel like you are struggling to get a good nights sleep, check out these natural ways to get a restful night and remember that is you feel like lack of sleep is becoming a problem, always make sure to see your GP. Let’s take a look at some of the things that happen to your body when you don’t get enough sleep.
You Get More Brain Fog
If you have an intellectually-challenging job, you know that if you miss an hour of sleep, it can have a knock-on effect on your work. Interrupted or shortened sleep stops you from thinking as clearly and freely as you otherwise might, making it more challenging to complete tasks. When you’re tired, you often feel like you have crank out work, rather than it being something that flows naturally.
Studies in the Experimental Brain Research journal found that people who miss out on a night’s sleep suffer from a reduced ability to solve problems, make decisions, and recall information from memory.
You Become More Forgetful
We’ve all forgotten to do things: lock the front door, wish somebody a happy birthday, or call back a client. But research indicates that a lack of sleep could make forgetfulness worse. Sleep, it seems, helps to rejuvenate the brain’s memory systems, priming them for new information at the start of a day. It’s also vital for consolidating what we’ve already learned, which is why adequate sleep is so critical for students and people in knowledge industries.
Your Sex Drive Plummets
Not getting enough sleep is anathema to a healthy sex drive. Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that people who suffer from fragmented sleep - such as those with sleep apnea - have reduced levels of sex hormones in their blood by as much as 15 per cent, crushing libido.
People with interrupted sleep also reported lower levels of desire for sexual activity.
You Put On Weight
Researchers writing in Sleep and Breathing investigated whether people who got less sleep put on more weight. The researchers followed people for three years, asking them periodically how much sleep they got and how much they weighed. After the three years, they found that the people who slept the least put on the most weight.
The researchers pointed out that their study did not indicate a cause-and-effect relationship because those who did not get as much sleep may have been engaging in other weight-promoting lifestyle choices. But they pointed out that a lack of sleep could promote unhealthy behaviours, such as snacking, which could then lead to an increase in a person’s weight.
You Become More Accident-Prone
Scientists have known for a long time that people who work anti-social hours are at a higher risk of accidents. People who drive at night, work night shifts in hospitals or travel for business are much more likely to end up in the emergency room.
Sleep is an integral part of self-care, especially for people in these at-risk groups. Data from the National Sleep Foundation suggests that people who get fewer than six hours of sleep are more than three times more likely to be involved in an accident. The foundation points out that those who regularly drive at night on little sleep are more likely to be the victims of a crash.
Your Skin Loses Quality
It should come as no surprise that a lack of sleep affects the way you look. People consistently rate people who get sufficient sleep as more attractive than those who don’t. But there’s also now evidence that a lack of sleep can affect how old your skin looks.
Researchers investigated the sleep habits of people between the ages of 30 and 50 to see whether sleep quantity and quality affected their skin. The study found that people who got less sleep, or whose sleep was more interrupted, had more blotchiness, fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone.
You Increase Your Risk Of Heart Problems
When it comes to protecting your heart, there appears to be a sweet spot. Fewer than five hours, or more than nine, seems to increase a person’s risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. Again, the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, but scientists think it might be to do with the way that a lack of sleep interacts with the plaques that line the arteries of many people towards the end of their lives. Lack of sleep leads to higher stress which increases
the number of inflammatory factors swimming around in the blood, causing plaques on artery walls less stable. With less rest, these plaques become more prone to breaking off and causing a blockage.
Your Immune System Suffers
The immune system is another biological system that requires adequate sleep to function optimally. A lack of sleep can suppress the activity of the immune system, leaving you vulnerable to opportunistic infections and increasing the chance of developing symptoms in response to cold and flu viruses.
Sleep, therefore, is a crucial pillar of natural health and wellbeing. Rest is one of your best defences against the modern world, helping to keep you healthy and productive while simultaneously improving your quality of life.