7 Ways Lack of Sleep Affects Your Health

| Women's Health

trouble sleeping
(Photo: Medical Daily)

Lack of sleep leaves you groggy, unfocused, and fatigued. You find yourself reaching for another cup of coffee in the morning or wishing for a nap. The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. However, most people don't get the average amount per night; instead, six hours or less is common. Your day is busy, and sometimes that requires you to stay up late or get up early. While one day of little sleep won't harm you, repeated lack of sleep is bad for you mind and body! Here are some ways lack of sleep can affect you.

You crave junk food: Lack of sleep may throw off the hormones in your body that regulate appetite. Your body may crave more high-carb and high-fat foods, causing you to consume more calories than your body needs. After sleep loss, your body has more of the hunger hormone ghrelin and less of the appetite-supressing hormone leptin. Over time, this can cause weight gain.

Your immune system is weaker: Not getting your zzz's slows your immune system and also hurts your ability to fight off a cold or flu once you catch one. Your body's immune response is lessened when you starve yourself of sleep. To keep the germs at bay, make sure you're getting enough sleep (and wash your hands, of course).

You stress more: Sleep and stress are intertwined in a vicious cycle. Lying in bed late at night, you may not be able to fall asleep easily when thinking about life's stresses, causing you to get inadequate sleep. Plus, when you don't get enough sleep, your body perceives and experiences more stress than a well-rested person would. Break the cycle of stress and practice getting enough sleep during the night!

>>Read More: 9 Ways to Beat the Stress

trouble sleeping

Your memory is impaired: You may be more forgetful when you're sleepy, but sleep also plays an important part in learning and thinking. Lack of sleep impairs your attention and concentration as well as your reasoning and problem solving skills. This may hurt your ability to learn a new skill or task and to perform and think at a high level.

You look older: Those dark, puffy circles under your eyes aren't flattering on anyone. Sleep loss makes your body release more cortisol, the stress hormone. Excess cortisol breaks down the collagen in your skin, adding to fine lines and wrinkles. When we get enough sleep, human growth hormones are stimulated to repair the body and skin.

>> Read More: Anti-Aging Skin Care

Your body aches: Aches and pains from the day may sometimes keep you up at night. However, getting too little sleep intensifies the feeling of pain. The body does not tolerate pain the same way when it is sleep deprived. Also, the body is not given proper time to heal itself when you don't get enough sleep.

You feel more depressed: Depression is linked with lack of sleep. The two problems often feed each other. You may notice your mood changes when you are lacking sleep. To keep your mood more positive, make sure to get a normal amount of sleep.

To avoid these consequences of too little sleep, work on getting enough sleep every night. Though you  may have the occasional night that sleep evades you or a busy schedule that requires a late night or early morning, sleep is important to the health of your body and mind. If you need help sleeping, try these 5 ways to get a better night's sleep.