Sleep deprivation is a huge concern across developed nations, with nearly two thirds of adults reporting that they regularly don’t get enough sleep. And while you’re probably aware that not getting enough sleep affects your mood, you might be surprised by all the other things that insufficient sleep can mean for your health.
First off, researchers now believe that sleep is one of the most significant factors in whether or not you’ll develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life. When you sleep, the glymphatic system in your brain kicks in. This system works as a sort of cleanser for your brain, removing a toxic protein known as beta amyloid. High levels of beta amyloid are associated with developing Alzheimier’s.
You may have also noticed that sleeping less makes you snack more. That’s because when you’re sleep deprived, hormones that make you feel hungry are increased, while the ones that make you feel full are decreased. So sleep-deprived people are actually prone to overeating, which makes them more susceptible to undesired weight gain.
Lack of sleep also drastically increases the likelihood of having a heart attack. You don’t need to look much further than daylight savings to see the impacts even just one less hour of sleep can have on heart health. In the spring, when the clocks skip an hour, the number of heart attacks jumps by 24 percent the next day. In contrast, when we gain an extra hour of sleep in the fall, heart attacks are reduced by 21 percent.
Over time, consistent sleep loss can compromise your immune system and make you more likely to develop cancer. That’s why the World Health Organization classifies night-time shift work as a carcinogen.
And athletes who don’t get enough shuteye often lose their competitive abilities. Sleeping any less than six hours a night makes you likelier to hit your point of physical exhaustion 10 to 30 percent sooner than you would otherwise. Things like strength and flexibility are also reduced after a poor night’s sleep, so it’s not surprising that athletes who don’t get enough sleep are also twice as likely to sustain an injury over the course of a single season compared to peers who get nine hours a night.
And perhaps most strikingly is the fact that regularly sleeping only five hours a night increases your risk of dying at any given moment by a huge 65 percent!
So, if you’re feeling a little burnt out and in need of catching up on sleep, you should probably take that seriously. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to smoke a joint and sleep in a bit longer on the weekends.