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You know you’re supposed to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but sometimes, you stay up for a night out on the town, to finish a project at work, or even just to watch Law & Order reruns. We get it—we’ve all been there, and a late night here and there won’t have any lasting effects beyond the fatigue you feel the next day. It’s when you skimp on sleep night after night that it becomes a real problem. Though you may think your five-hours-a-night habit is nothing to worry about, chronic sleep deprivation has been tied to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression
How do you know if you’re sleep deprived? For most people today, sleep is definitely a luxury. But studies have been consistent in showing that we ALL (with very few exceptions that are, in scientific terms, freaks of nature) need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you don’t have a calculator handy to see whether you’ve been hitting this goal lately, here are the four most common signs that you could do with more sleep.
You Are Gaining Weight (Even If You Don’t Want To)
Did you know that your weight gain can be caused by sleep deprivation? In fact, studies show how sleep loss is contributing to obesity. This is true for both children and adults. So if you are wondering where all the weight is coming from, check if you are getting enough sleep daily. Lack of sleep can lead to an increased appetite, with a specific preference for high-calorie, quick-energy foods. It is pretty common that whatever energy you did not get from your short sleep must be provided by the food you eat. In addition to that, less sleep messes up your hormonal balance, making your body more likely to store any excess energy consumed as fatty tissue. “A lack of sleep can also have direct effects on your metabolism, tending to slow it down without proper rest”, Dr Winter says.
You Crave Fatty And Sugary Foods
We are all familiar with stress eating. Well, being sleep-deprived actually leads to an increased production of cortisol, leading to the same physiological reaction – increased cravings for processed and fatty food. Poor sleep can also mess with leptin, the satiety hormone. “When you’re not sleeping properly you tend to eat more of what you’re craving because you’re not feeling the signals to stop eating” says Dr Chris Winter, MD, owner of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia. An added obstacle to resisting fatty & processed foods, is the lack of willpower that comes from being tired, which affects your decision-making skills as well as your ability to pick the healthy option at the breakfast bar. So next time you find yourself constantly craving for something sweet, check how many hours of sleep you got the night before.
It’s Harder To Focus (And You’re Actually Clumsier)
The brain is a difficult thing to understand and dissect, but studies have recently shown that sleep allows your brain to dispose of unnecessary waste of neural activity allowing it to function faster when you’re awake. Imagine having a garage full of trash and having to take your car out. It would take a whole lot of effort compared to an organized garage with your car in the middle. Or having a well-organized closet instead of one where you have to rummage through all the clothes just to find your purple scarf. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re not well rested and are sleep deprived. Your memory doesn’t function as well as it should, either, and your long-term memory might actually be affected as well. So any extra hours of work that you manage to squeeze in by sacrificing sleep are actually wasted by the fact that you’re nowhere near as productive as you could be.
You Are Moody (And Unhappy)
Ever heard of waking up on the wrong side of the bed? Have you ever had those days? They’re often days when you had very little sleep. Eating sweets because you are sleep deprived can also contribute to an increase in your negative mood. You put your body under a lot of stress when you don’t allow your brain (and body) to regenerate during sleep. There is that feeling of stress, anger, sadness, and even mental exhaustion when you sleep less than 7 hours per day.”You become over-reactive to emotional stimuli,”Kelly Baron says, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University in Chicago. So things that normally haven’t gotten you worked up in the past—a tear-jerking movie or big work deadline—may provoke anxiety, sadness, or anger. (It could also go the opposite way: “People can get slap-happy and giddy as well,” Baron says.) Continuous lack of sleep can increase negative emotions and thoughts, making you unhappy, and can even lead to mental problems in the long run. If you’ve been feeling anxious lately, then try getting enough sleep tonight. You’ll wake up in a better mood.
Sleep is one of the most important factors of success and leading a healthy life, and it’s at the same time one of the hardest things to achieve in our fast-paced world, even though it should be a top priority. So don’t feel guilty about going to bed an hour or two earlier. Think of it as an investment in your future health and productivity!