You’ve likely heard it before—you need to get more sleep. It’s a crucial aspect of overall health that’s often overlooked and neglected. And of course there are a million reasons why: like balancing work, responsibilities, social events, parenthood and all other elements of life that keep us busy. Healthy sleep habits are usually the first to decline when you want to get more things done. Seven hours of sleep drops to six hours, then five hours on a good night (yikes!). But before you push quality sleep on the back burner, you may want to reconsider and reprioritize it. Poor sleep can have a negative effect on nearly every part of the body, and it will likely catch up to you in the long run.
According to the CDC, adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night to promote optimal health. However, about 35 percent of adults don’t reach that minimum.1
After sleeping for less than seven hours, you might notice that you’re not on your A-game. But over time, there are many health problems that can arise from skimping on good sleep.
Your Mind Isn’t As Sharp
Ever notice how foggy and less focused you feel after a night of inadequate sleep? That’s because your brain needs rest to process and retain information. It’s also why pulling “all-nighters” usually backfires and does more harm than good, especially to our stress levels.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), skimping on sleep can negatively affect your decision-making, problem-solving and the way you handle your emotions.2 Sleep deficiency is also linked to mental health issues concerning depression, suicide and risky behaviors.
You’re More Likely to Develop Chronic Illnesses
You may not think that simply being tired can lead to extreme health outcomes, but it’s true. Sleep deprivation is linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression, according to the CDC. Sleep quality and sleep duration are common predictors of blood sugar control and a way to improve blood sugar for people who already live with diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, per the CDC. People with sleep apnea have been found to be at increased risk for a number of cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease and irregular heartbeats. According to a January 2019 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, insufficient sleep contributes to a build-up of plaque inside your arteries that can restrict blood flow and lead to heart disease.
You’re More Likely to Gain Weight
When it comes to weight gain, research shows that less hours of sleep each night leads to metabolism changes that may be linked to obesity.
According to the CDC, this is true for all age groups, but has been especially observed in kids. Researchers believe sleep is particularly important for children’s brain development and that insufficient sleep may adversely affect the function of the hypothalamus— the part of the brain that regulates appetite and the expenditure of energy.
Researchers also find that too-little sleep increases levels of hormones that stimulate appetite and can lead to weight gain. And people who aren’t getting enough REM sleep have less energy for physical activity during the day.
You Compromise Your Immunity
We need our immune systems to fight off illness and without quality sleep it’s harder to do that.
Short sleep increases the likelihood that you’ll get sick after you’ve been exposed to a virus, and it can also lengthen the amount of time it takes you to recover from illness, according to the Mayo Clinic.3
During cold and flu season, it’s especially important to have a strong immune system when viruses are more prevalent. Adequate sleep can help bolster your immune system and protect you from infectious diseases that could be lurking.
So, how important is sleep? As it turns out, it is extremely important for daily life and long–term health. But sleep is not one-size-fits all and it varies from person to person. The amount of sleep you need depends on several factors like your age, lifestyle and genetics. If your bedtime routine has been lacking, try these strategies to increase your zzzs.
- Create and maintain a sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same hour every day.
- Don’t drink caffeine in the afternoon.
- Talk to your doctor about whether you’re taking medication that might be interfering with your sleep duration and quality.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, cool and screen-free.
- Get plenty of sunlight.
- Avoid alcohol and large meals close to bedtime.
About the Author:
Ciara Lucas is a journalist, on-air talent, media professional, and fitness/wellness coach. Her multifaceted career brings a unique perspective and expertise to the Vionic Innovation Lab team.
Ciara’s professional career has encompassed contributing to local and national newsrooms including NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, NBC Sports for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, and NBC News coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. When she’s not on screen, she’s building connections strengthened through sweat as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, helping clients find their meaning of sustainable health and happiness.
Ciara has created a personal brand and platform titled “Fit For A Queen” where she aims to empower, motivate, and inspire women from all walks of life to nurture their health and live their best lives by treating their bodies well. She is also an active member of the nonprofit Girls on the Run where she serves as a run coach for elementary school girls.
- “Vaccination Coverage Among Adults, Excluding Influenza Vaccination — United States, 2013.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 65, no. 4, 2016, pp. 97-102. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6506a1.htm
- “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep-deprivation
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Lack of Sleep: Can It Make You Sick?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757