THIS IS YOUR BODY ON SLEEP DEPRIVATION

I’ve talked a lot about sleep, and the importance of it. But I haven’t written a detailed blog post about it yet.

I was going to, and then this popped up on my fitness pal ap, and I decided I’d share this one instead of writing my own. Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing the extra work, right? 🙂 Not when the Centers for Disease and Prevention has basically laid it all out anyway.

Of course I have added my own two cents along the way, in purple.

So be sure to read all the way to the bottom to find out exactly how much sleep you actually need according to your mind-body type.

1. BRAIN

Waking up groggy isn’t the only side effect of a poor night’s sleep. Studies suggest that even one night of poor sleep causes you to think less creatively and give up more quickly when faced with a complex problem.

You also may feel more anxious or emotional. “We make judgments and decisions about our place in the world when we sleep,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona. “Sleep deprivation interrupts this, which can lead to anxiety, stress and depression.”

I don’t know about you, but I personally struggle to string two intelligent sentences together when I am lacking sleep. And as for “giving up more quickly when faced with a complex problem”, my six year old can basically talk me into 10 hours of tube time just by saying “mommy” twice. 

2. EYES

Nodding off at your desk won’t score you any points with your boss, but it’s safer than nodding off behind the wheel. Six hours or less of sleep triples your risk of having a car accident, according to the National Sleep Foundation. When you’re sleep-deprived, you take “microsleeps,” where you close your eyes momentarily. The scary thing is you may not realize you fell asleep for a few seconds.

“If you feel drowsy, pull over,” says Dr. Rafael Pelayo, a sleep specialist at the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center. “You might fall asleep any moment.”

If you do stay awake, studies show that you’re more easily distracted when you get inadequate sleep, especially if you’re doing something monotonous, like driving. And your hand-eye coordination for steering isn’t as good,either. All of this adds up to dangerous commutes.

Who hasn’t at least almost fallen asleep at the wheel? Scariest feeling in the world! At least it was for me, when I heard the loud horn and saw the flashing headlights of the 18 wheeler behind me. Dear trucker. Thank you for saving my life 20 years ago on a Florida interstate. 

3. STOMACH

Numerous studies link sleep deprivation with eating more calories — especially more junk — and gaining weight. In a small University of Chicago study, men who slept four hours a night for two nights reported a 24% increase in appetite. They especially craved high-carb, calorically dense foods like cookies, chips, bread and pasta.

Researchers believe two hormones may play a role: leptin, the hormone that signals when we’re full, and ghrelin, which signals when we’re hungry.

Leptin naturally rises during the day and peaks at night, but that doesn’t seem to happen if you stay awake, Grandner says. In fact, in the University of Chicago study, researchers saw an 18% decrease in levels of leptin and a 28% increase in levels of ghrelin.

Another explanation for our hungry-like-the-wolf behavior may be related to changes in our brain. “We make decisions that we would not have made well-rested,” Grandner explains. “You wouldn’t normally eat a double cheeseburger for dinner, but at 1 a.m., it looks awesome and seems like a good idea.”

My husband has heard me say a number of times, “I don’t want to eat anymore tonight, so I’m going to bed right now.” Sometimes it’s as early as 7:30! Hey, it works. 🙂

4. HEART

Chronic poor sleep could put you at risk for heart problems. Sleep deprivation is associated with increased blood pressure and greater risk of hypertension.

“Sleep is when your cells regenerate,” Grandner says. “So when your sleep is disturbed, this process is thrown off. And one system that is most sensitive to this reaction is your blood vessels, because they are constantly being regenerated.”

Over time this may lead to stiffness in your arteries and less efficient healing, which can impact your heart health.

All I can say here is, I want my cells regenerating as much as possible! Not just for a healthy heart, but to also turn over all those potentially disease producing cells that we are all susceptible to, like cancer.

5. PANCREAS

After as little as a week, your body may start to look prediabetic, Grandner says, depending on how extreme your sleep deprivation is.

What he means is that your insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance decrease, sometimes to levels seen in people with diabetes or obesity, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In another 2016 study, researchers found that sleeping four or five hours a night may increase diabetes risk by 16%.

This is a scary reality. If you regularly sleep five hours or less per night, this is something you’ll seriously want to look into. 

6. IMMUNE SYSTEM

A single night of poor sleep boosts inflammation in your body. Not only could this be an underlying contributor to the increased risk of heart problems, obesity and diabetes, it could also make you more vulnerable to getting sick.

Studies have shown that people who sleep less than six hours a night are at a greater risk of catching the common cold than people who sleep at least seven hours.

I know this to be true! As someone who can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been even slightly under the weather in the past 10-12 years, I knew something was way off kilter when “out of nowhere”, almost four years ago, I began developing strange food allergies, to the point that I had to resort to steroid medications several times in a matter of weeks.

I didn’t like that one bit!

(I couldn’t bare to have you read the rest of this long response in purple)

And I knew that no doctor or allergist could cure me, and I had no interest in band-aiding the problem with meds, and walking around with an Epi-pen for the rest of my life.

I knew enough to know that allergies were an autoimmune deficiency. And it was clear to me that this new outbreak was simply a symptom of a larger disease  – STRESS.

I was in the middle of growing my business, completely consumed by work from morning until evening, while also dealing with a personal crisis, and you guessed it…NOT getting enough sleeping!

That was a new experience for me, as I was someone who never had trouble sleeping. I had been so stressed (without even realizing I was stressed), that I hadn’t even put two and two together all the times I kept waking up in the middle of the night.

Honestly, that allergy outbreak was the wake up call (clearly pun intended) that possibly saved my life. Or at least my health. Which to me, is basically my life.  

I immediately made a few much needed changes to my schedule, began incorporating daily stress reduction practices, and paid close attention to my bodies softer signals instead of waiting for the full blown screaming signals, like the ones I was getting through food allergies. 

In a mater of weeks I was sleeping through the night again, and in less than 6 months all of those “mysterious” food allergies disappeared.

Today I can eat any of those foods without any reaction at all. 

And I haven’t had any problem sleeping my normal 7-8 hours each night. 

So how are you sleeping?

And How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need Anyway?

These answers may surprise you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.