A good night’s sleep is one of those things that always seems to be just out of reach. When other things like work or family obligations increase, sleep is almost always the first thing that people cut back on.
There are just not enough hours in the day, they say, to get a full eight hours of sleep and do everything that has to be done. But cutting back on sleep can result in more than just feeling a little sluggish the next morning. Here are several reasons why sleep is vital to your health.
You’re Less Likely to Develop Major Health Issues
Being tired and feeling rundown are annoying, but they’re minor compared to some of the issues you could develop if you routinely don’t sleep enough. These health issues include diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and an increased risk of heart attack. The body uses sleep as a time to repair damage, restore energy, and put the body back into its default setting after a long day of work. Without sufficient sleep, none of this happens. The result is that the body simply can’t repair itself.
One good example of how sleep and health are interlinked comes from a study that looked at how a lack of sleep affects blood sugar levels. After as little as four days of disturbed sleep, healthy adults start to show blood sugar levels in the pre-diabetic range.
People who are very tired may not have the energy to do much of anything. They may grab unhealthy fast food and sit on the sofa all night instead of cooking something healthy and exercising. They are also more likely to want to eat more—studies have shown that people who don’t sleep as much have lower levels of leptin, a hormone that provides that full feeling you get when eating. As a result, people who often don’t get a good amount of sleep will want to eat more. This leads to obesity, which is the root of a wide range of health problems.
You’ll Hurt Less
A relationship between sleep and pain, or lack thereof, has also been shown. This includes both temporary pain from accidents and chronic pain from issues such as arthritis. This is why people who are sick or hurt want to sleep more. Sleep has been shown to improve a person’s pain threshold and can actually improve the effectiveness of pain medication. Unfortunately, being in pain is one of the reasons why many people don’t get enough sleep.
You’ll Cause Fewer Accidents
Being tired is at the root of many accidents. In fact, disasters such as the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle have been linked to people who were so tired that they missed obvious errors or made major mistakes. The Institute of Medicine has reported that one-fifth of all car accidents that occur in the U.S. every year are caused by drivers who haven’t had enough sleep. That comes out to almost one million accidents. Being sleepy also makes physical activity more difficult, which is why people tend to stumble, drop things, or bump into things when they’re tired.
In addition to the mental and physical symptoms, a lack of sleep also affects your emotions. Those who haven’t slept well will be more emotional. They may find that they’re much more likely to get angry, feel sad, or even find everything funny. No matter how a person’s emotions are affected, having such emotional outbursts is not healthy.
You’ll Avoid Caffeine Overdose
The most common way people combat a lack of sleep is with coffee and other caffeinated beverages. However, consuming too much caffeine isn’t healthy for you. Drinking excess amounts of caffeine can lead to a number of issues, including feeling jittery, having an increased heart rate, feeling anxious, getting dizzy, and developing insomnia. The more caffeine you drink, the more addicted to the substance you’ll become. If you try to stop drinking caffeine, you’ll find that you do actually go through a withdrawal process that can be fairly brutal.
Don’t Skip Sleep!
The bottom line is that cutting back on sleep is only going to hurt you in the long run. It will damage your mental, physical, and emotional health, make you more likely to cause accidents, and can even make you hurt more. Take the time to get a proper amount of sleep—your body will thank you.