Sleep is very important, but most of us do not take it seriously. As a teenager, I remember waiting for my parents to fall asleep then I would sneak out of my room and talk with friends on the phone or simply surfed on the Internet. As a university student, I simply had to study hard until late at night. And adulthood was not so different. Not only do you have to work, but having fun especially on the weekends was also part of the routine. This means, going out in bars and going home when the sun is out already.
It was only when I became even older that I started to notice the dangers of getting too sleep. Maybe it was part of getting older and not anymore having the same energy as before. But I started to really feel tired and needing to make up for the lack of sleep on the weekends. The worst was being so exhausted but still finding myself tossing and turning. I became worried, so I did my homework and found out how insomnia was actually bad for me.
Of course, we all know that our sleep time is when our body recovers and prepares us for another day. Children and teenagers, however, need sleep as this is when growth hormones are released. These same hormones are also responsible for muscle mass and cell repair. Therefore, sleep is really vital during these years.
As adults, lack of sleep can affect all body systems:
- Central Nervous System
Without enough sleep, your brain and the central nervous system will simply not function well. This is because busy neurons rest in the night and new pathways are formed for the next day. Moreover, proteins are produced by your body during sleep which help with cell damage repair.
Insomnia and sleep deprivation will lead to an exhausted brain, which feels clouded and unable to perform normally. Despite drinking coffee, you will feel sluggish and find it difficult to concentrate and take in new information. You will also find it difficult to memorize anything and contemplate to make decisions. Even your emotions are not unaffected, you end up being short-tempered and moody.
The biggest risk of insomnia is microsleep when you fall asleep for a few seconds or minutes without realizing it. You end up being at risk for injury and worse, car accidents.
- Immune System
It is during sleep when your immune system produces cytokines, as well as antibodies and cells that fight infections. Otherwise, your body do not have the tools to be able to fight off bacteria and viruses. Therefore, lack of sleep will lower your immune system and even make it difficult to recover from sickness or illnesses.
- Respiratory System
Because of your compromised immune system, you become vulnerable to cold and flu. Sleep deprivation also worsens chronic lung disease.
- Digestive System
Studies have found a link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. In fact, this is one of the risk factors for being overweight.
Without enough sleep, your body produces more cortisol, the stress hormone, and lowers levels of leptin, which tells your brain that you’re full. It also raises ghrelin, a biochemical that is an appetite stimulant. Therefore, you find yourself eating more and gaining weight.
Worse, your body gives off more insulin after eating, which promotes storage of fat and eventually making you more at risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Cardiovascular System
It is also when you sleep when your body heals and repairs blood vessels and heart. Lack of sleep then increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. In fact, if you have hypertension, a single night of too little sleep leads to higher blood pressure the next day.
In fact, research had proven that having less than 5 hours of sleep increases your risk of death by 15%. You might also end up having chronic conditions that will also lower your quality of life.
It is more than clear that getting enough sleep is vital for good health. But how much is enough? As adults, we really need to get around 7 to 9 hours a night, but in reality, most get much less. In this time and age of technology, it is easy to get caught up on our smartphones and the Internet. If you also have a lot of responsibilities, like children and work, it can be difficult to find enough sleep.
Still, it is not too late to prioritize your health. I, myself, took the first steps to try to beat insomnia. Thankfully, with a change of habits and a lot of effort, I was finally getting more sleep and experienced fewer symptoms of insomnia. Not only do I have more energy now to do what I want, but I feel stronger, happier and healthier too.