by Kay Carter
Contributing Author, Conscious Reminder
We’ve all been there—we wake up in the morning to get ready for our day after a limited amount of sleep and feel like we never went to sleep in the first place.
The incessant yawning, the inability to focus, and the “zoned out” feeling are all precursors to a really long day. Sleep isn’t a task we can just tick off our to-do list—it’s essential to our overall physical, emotional, and mental health.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in three Americans are receiving less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night.
Without getting enough sleep, the chances of acquiring life-threatening conditions and illnesses, such as a stroke or high blood pressure, become much more likely. Here are six other ways that sleep (or lack thereof) can impact your health.
1. Onset of Sleep Disorders
Over 70 different sleep disorders exist, with the most common being insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. Insomnia is the inability to fall and stay asleep, sleep apnea affects one’s breathing through an obstruction, and narcolepsy can cause someone to suddenly fall asleep during the day. Having any sleep disorder makes it extremely difficult to get high-quality rest and can even increase your risk of developing other health conditions like anxiety and depression.
2. Sleep Interruption
Sleep is such a complicated biological function to understand, and it’s even more complicated when we don’t get enough of it. Of the four stages of sleep, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep—the final stage—occurs every 90 minutes in a person who sleeps normally. During REM sleep, our eyes move rapidly while our heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, and breathing climb to levels that reflect those of someone awake.
REM sleep is important because it’s not only the stage when our dreams take place, but it’s also the stage where our learning ability and memory get their “power.” If we are interrupted while in REM sleep, we wake up feeling stressed, flustered, and highly emotional instead of rested. It’s important to ensure your sleep environment has low light levels, is clutter-free, and is void of disruptors like a noisy air conditioner or rattling washing machine that need to be fixed.
3. Inability to Handle Stress
Stress is already hard enough when we’ve gotten enough sleep, but what happens when we’re operating on the bare minimum? The coffee slips out of our hand and the people around us think a war has just started because of our ill-tempered mood. Lack of sleep influences concentration, cognition, and productivity and tasks that are usually a no-brainer are more difficult because of a lack of sleep. Getting enough sleep will significantly help your ability to handle both the big and little stresses in life.
4. Fatigued Driving
Driving a car while sleep deprived is similar to driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Due to the lack of sleep, the brain doesn’t work in its most powerful way because it hasn’t “recharged,” making it very difficult for the driver to concentrate. Not only is this incredibly dangerous, but it could have tragic consequences. If you’re exhausted, don’t drive—call a friend or use a ride sharing service.
Research has shown that individuals that have been diagnosed with any form of depression also have issues with sleep. There is some debate, however, as to which comes first—the sleep disorder or the depression diagnosis. In most cases, the two feed into each other, which is why getting plenty of sleep is a good way to take care of your mental health. When we achieve restful sleep, we feel good, both mentally and physically. Not only are we able to be more productive during the day, but we have more energy for the people and things we care about.
6. Aged Skin
Most people will experience some puffiness if they miss a couple nights of good sleep. However, chronic sleep loss can lead to fine lines, think skin, and dark circles under the eyes. This is because your body releases more of the stress hormone, cortisol, when you don’t get enough sleep, causing a breakdown of skin collagen.
About the Authir: Kay Carter is a writer from Raleigh, NC. When she isn’t writing about the latest wellness trend, you can find her reading, traveling, or listening to a true crime podcast.
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