A healthy diet, physical exercise, a good night’s sleep – only together can they make a difference between a blessed life and the one filled with struggles. Even though today’s lifestyle trends dictate the importance of wholesome foods and gym memberships, the ideal 8-hour long sleep remains among the most overlooked necessities in life. Both quality and quantity-wise, our sleep is insufficient.
And at what terrible cost.
Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, brain deterioration, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, impaired immune function, increased inflammation and poor mental health. In case of chronic insomnia, these consequences can be severe. Prolonged sleeping issues are seldom malignant, and it takes years for them to cause serious damage. Nevertheless, they do affect your quality of life.
These are only a few of the negative effects that they can have on you.
If memory depends on the healthy brain, and the brain’s health relies on a good night’s sleep, then it’s only natural that our capacity to store and retain information is inextricably tied to what happens in our bedrooms during the night. It’s a logical link that needs no scientific proof but was still put to a test.
Numerous studies have shown that the poor quality of deep sleep causes memories to get stuck in the hippocampus. In a healthy brain, sensory input is transferred from hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that acts as a database for long-term memories. Feeble sleep prevents this.
No thanks to a lack of deep sleep, memory loss can further lead to chronic forgetfulness and inability to focus. This is quite obvious in the elderly, who experience prolonged sleeping issues more often, but is nothing less common in younger people. In both cases, memory loss signals brain deterioration.
Speaking of brain deterioration versus healthy brain function, it’s important to note that sleep has a more immediate effect on concentration, cognition, productivity and overall performance than a balanced diet and regular exercising. And when we’re too sleepy to function, we’re ill-tempered too.
Prolonged sleeping issues affect our mental health in various direct and indirect ways. The most obvious sign of impaired psyche that can be linked back to sleeping disorders is depression. It’s not surprising that a 2005 study warns that 90% of patients with depression complain about sleep quality.
Mood swings are a logical consequence of poor sleep quality as well, but they also inevitably reduce our ability to function in social scenarios. In this sense, sleepiness is very much alike intoxication – it clouds our judgement, prevents us from processing emotions, and makes us misinterpret social cues.
Blood Pressure Issues
Since body and mind form an endlessly complex system in which everything’s inseparably connected, we can only assume that there’s a link between sleeping and blood pressure. The later acts as a regulator of the central nervous system and stress hormones, both of which are responsible for mood.
The connection between mood and sleeping disorders has already been confirmed, which means that blood pressure cannot remain immune to the poor quality of sleep either. Because of that, scientists believe that sleeping fewer than six hours at night may cause a risk of developing high blood pressure.
A study published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association proves this belief, showcasing that men who got the least deep sleep were 80% more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who got the most. The same most likely applies to the female patients as well.
Following the same argument as before – that is, the one about body and mind being connected by numerous links – we cannot but trace the effects of prolonged sleeping issues on hormones and mental health down to their mutual connection with eating habits, metabolism, diabetes, and weight.
Not only is poor sleep strongly linked to weight problems, but it’s also scientifically proven to be one of the strongest factors for obesity in both children and adults. This can be because chronic sleepiness hinders our motivation to exercise, or because of other factors that are related to the immune system.
Whatever the case, one thing is for certain – the less you sleep, the more weight you will gain. A poor sleeping schedule necessarily interferes with our eating habits, tempting us to reach out for junk food in late night hours, while studies prove that sleeping issues disrupt appetite hormones and regulation.
Problems in the Bedroom
It’s not only social interactions that suffer from our inability to get a good night’s sleep. Chronic tiredness takes a toll on our intimate relationships as well, whether it comes to healthy day-to-day functioning or to romantic physical communication. Once again, it’s all about hormones and energy.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism discovered that about half of the men who suffered from sleep apnea had lower than average levels of testosterone during the night. But general fatigue and apathy that come from short though regular sleep lower sex drive, too.
We cannot deny it – together with healthy diet and physical activity, an 8-hour long sleep makes the three pillars of health. By affecting both body and mind, prolonged sleeping issues can wreak havoc on our everyday schedules and habits, and gradually lower our overall quality of living. If you’re suffering from poor sleep, make sure to contact your doctor and find out how to get some quality z’s.