Getting a good night’s sleep is an essential part of your well-being. If you don’t sleep enough, you feel tired and irritable the next day. You may have difficulty concentrating or getting your work done. And you may spend the whole day wishing you were back in bed, snug under the covers.
Not only can a lack of sleep ruin your day, but if you don’t get enough quality sleep on a regular basis, it can cause physical and mental health issues that go far beyond the miserable feeling you have after a poor night’s sleep. That’s why it’s important for you to make sleep a priority.
Here are 10 things that can happen to your body when you don’t get enough quality sleep.
- You get sick
Losing sleep can impair your body’s ability to fight off illness. Not getting enough sleep weakens your immune system by not allowing it enough time to build its defenses. And when your immune system’s defenses are down, your chances of getting sick go up. Lack of sleep also makes recovery longer when you do get sick.
- You can’t think
Memory, problem-solving skills and even creativity can be negatively affected by missing just one night of sleep.
In a 2011 study, 18 men completed two tasks: one after a full night’s sleep and one after a night of no sleep. Not surprisingly, the night of no sleep had negative effects on alertness, reasoning, and reaction times.
- You forget stuff
Not only can missed sleep make you more forgetful, there’s also a growing body of research indicating that sleep has an impact on learning and memory.
Researchers suggest that sleep is critical to the process of consolidating the things we learn in the brain. In other words, we need proper rest to lock in new information and commit it to memory.
- It can affect your mental health
It may come as no surprise that there’s a link between depression and sleep. That's not to say insomnia or other sleep problems are caused only by depression.
Having a sleep disorder does not in itself cause depression, but lack of sleep does play a role. Lack of sleep caused by another medical condition, a sleep disorder or personal problems can make depression worse and negatively affects your mental health.
- Your heart suffers
When it comes to matters of the heart, either too little or too much sleep can have a negative effect on your cardiovascular health. Getting less than 5 hours or more than 9 hours of sleep each night has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks.
- Your cancer risk increases
A 2015 study found that lack of sleep is linked to an increased risk of some cancers, including prostate cancer, breast cancer and oral cancer.
There’s also a risk for those who work overnight shifts. Several years of overnight light exposure may reduce your body’s levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. This can encourage cancer growth. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night can help you stay healthy.
- You gain weight
While it’s normal to enjoy the occasional late-night snack, sleep deprivation can cause nighttime munchies to become a regular occurrence.
A lack of sleep impacts your brain’s production of the hormones that control hunger and fullness. Not getting enough sleep triggers a decrease in your level of leptin (the hormone that tells your brain you’re full) and an increase in ghrelin (which boosts your appetite), leading to pre-bedtime snacking.
- Your risk of diabetes increases
Along with a bigger waistline, lack of sleep also prevents your body from releasing enough insulin, a hormone that lowers blood sugar levels. This can cause your blood sugar levels to spike, which can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Your skin suffers
They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing. Not getting enough sleep will wreak havoc on your skin.
A small 2015 study by the Estee Lauder Companies found that women who didn’t get enough good-quality sleep had more significant signs of skin aging and decreased skin barrier function.
- You’re at greater risk of injury
Getting behind the wheel when you’re operating on minimal sleep can lead to disaster. You’re three times more likely to be involved in a car accident if you get 6 or fewer hours of sleep each night. This can especially impact you if you work long hours, if you’re a shift worker, a commercial driver or if you travel often.
A lack of sleep can also affect your balance and coordination, making you more likely to fall, bump into things or have similar physical accidents.