Along with food, affection, and Netflix, sleep is one of the most basic and important human needs. So why aren’t any of use getting enough of it? Studies show that sleep deprivation is at epidemic levels in the US, and the consequences may be dire for folks who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night.
So what can happen to you if you’re not getting the right amount of rest?
You’ll Get Depressed: Lack of sleep and sleep disorders are very often coincident with symptoms of depression and anxiety – especially for those below that magic 6-hour-a-night threshold. Insomniacs in particular struggle mightily with depression, and are around 5 times more likely to suffer from depressive disorders.
You’ll Break Your Heart: Literally. Chronic sleep deprivation puts you at risk for heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Now, don’t let that keep you up at night!
You’ll Gain Weight: Who hasn’t gotten up from a bad night’s sleep with a craving for something greasy, bacony and delicious? Sleep deprivation leads directly to increased appetite - your body secretes high quantities of ghrelin (the hormone that tells your body it’s hungry) and lower amounts of leptin (the one that tells your body it’s full). People who sleep less than 6 hours a night are 30% more likely to become obese.
You’ll Basically Be Drunk 24/7, And Probably Crash Your Car: Severe sleep deprivation effects the brain in the exact same ways that alcohol does, slowing processing, reasoning and reaction time. In fact, one sleepless night and your brain behaves as if you’ve got a BAC of 0.1%. That’s over the legal limit, and that translates to some awfully awful driving. The Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue causes more than 100,000 crashes and over 1,500 crash-related deaths annually.
You’ll Age Faster: Less sleep = higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol begins to break down the collagen in your skin – the protein that keeps it all smooth and pretty and elastic. Kind of puts a new spin on the term “beauty sleep”, doesn’t it?
You’ll Get More Dumber: Even one sleepless night has an immediate and deep impact on your thinking, reasoning and learning. A tired brain experiences can’t pay attention, or concentrate, or problem solve nearly as well as a well-rested one. Add this to the fact that our sleep cycles play an important (but still mysterious) role in the consolidation and encoding of new information (aka, learning), and you’ll see that sleep is always the smartest choice.
You’ll Die Early: British researchers conducting the “Whitehall II” study – a 20-year longitudinal sleep-habits study among 10,000 civil servants – found that people who had lowered their sleep from seven hour to five (or fewer) nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes.
You Might Just End the World: Sleep deprivation and fatigue have factored in to some of the worst catastrophes and disasters of the last few decades. Well-rested brains could have prevented debacles like Three Mile Island, the crash of the Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl, and, it has been argued, the cinematic release of Battlefield Earth.
So what are you waiting for? Go get some sleep. You might just save the world. And if you need some help catching those elusive Z’s, just go grab a Wrap-a-Nap, and you'll be able to sleep anywhere.