We’ve all missed a good night’s sleep before, and the immediate effects of feeling groggy, unfocused, and sluggish are unpleasant yet bearable. Grab a cup of coffee (or two), and you’re good to go.
Although the occasional missed night of sleep does not have a major impact on your health, if you consistently sleep less than 6 hours a night, new research has uncovered 3 insidious effects of sleep deprivation that are a lot more detrimental to your health than a simple loss in focus and productivity.
And the worst part is that many of these effects may be chronic and irreversible. Here are the 3 most harmful effects of missing shut-eye:
Effect #1: Hormonal Disruption
Most people are familiar with the concept of the circadian rhythms that govern our wake-sleep cycles. Less commonly known is the fact that our bodies also have meal pattern rhythms that dictate both our metabolic rate and feelings of hunger. In fact, two key hormonal players—Ghrelin and Leptin—control the body’s appetite circuit.
Ghrelin is responsible for making you feel hungry before a meal, and Leptin is responsible for both decreasing hunger signals and increasing your metabolic rate. In response to even short term sleep deprivation, your normal Ghrelin-Leptin hormonal balance becomes greatly desynchronized. Here’s what happens:
Ghrelin increases—making you experience intense cravings leading to overeating.
Leptin decreases—which furthers exacerbates the hunger problem by decreasing satiety signals, while simultaneously lowering your metabolic rate.
Effect #2: Insulin Resistance
In addition to the Leptin-Ghrelin hormone disruptions, sleep deprivation also increases the body’s resistance to the key metabolic hormone insulin. After we eat a meal, our bodies secrete insulin to shuttle nutrients into our cells for usage.
When we are healthy and insulin sensitive, our bodies don’t need that much insulin to get the job done. Insulin rises, shuttles in the nutrients, and falls back down to baseline levels.
When our bodies become insulin resistant, a lot of excess insulin is left floating around in our the blood streams, which shuts off our bodies’ ability to burn fat, while simultaneously increasing diabetes risk.
The research is clear: Insulin resistance is one of the variables most highly correlated with obesity, decreased lifespan, and chronic disease.
Effect #3: Elevated Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is one of our bodies key stress hormones. On one hand, the short-term secretion of cortisol is vital for optimal health. It helps our bodies mobilize nutrients, increase energy levels, and prepare for activity. We want good, short bursts of cortisol everyday.
On the other hand, chronic cortisol secretion breaks down muscle tissue, promotes fat storage, degenerates brain cells, and contributes to the risk for almost every major disease.
At night, our bodies are hardwired to possess a natural process that decreases cortisol to healthy baseline levels, and sleep deprivation completely blocks this beneficial process—leading to chronically elevated cortisol levels.
The end result? A fatter, sicker, and dumber you.
The 3 Best Sleep Strategies
Clearly, sleep deprivation is not something to play around with if you value your health. If you are sleeping 6 hours or less per night, your body is experiencing:
- Erratic and elevated hunger signals to your brain
- A slower metabolic rate
- Chronically elevated cortisol levels
Thankfully, the fix is easy: prioritize your sleep and create a structured sleep schedule.
If you want to learn how to get the best night’s sleep of your life: Check out this powerful article where I walk through 3 effective sleep strategies on how to fall asleep fast and improve your health in your 30’s and 40’s.
Also, drop me a comment below. How healthy are your sleep habits right now?
About the Author:
Check out Anthony’s Google+ Profile.
Over the past ten years, Anthony has dedicated his life to teaching people who are struggling with weight gain, stress, and low-energy levels how to create PERMANENT health change. Take Anthony’s FREE 3 Day Course to learn how to create ABUNDANT energy, FAST weight loss, and NEW vitality in just 45 MINUTES per week!