Why The Lack Of sleep Is Slowly Killing You
Between the stack of work on your desk, and all the “Law and Order” episodes which need watching each night, you’re not getting enough sleep—which could be wreaking havoc on your health, and even slowly killing you.
But perhaps you’ve heard this before, although have you ever wondered why the lack of sleep is slowly killing you?
A few reasons—although first, a few things you need to know about sleep:
- Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep each night
- Around 40% of modern adults get fewer than 7-hours per night
- Around 44% of adults 30-49 years old get fewer than 6-hours per night
- The average hours per night of sleep for adults has gone from 7.9 hours in 1942, to 6.8 hours today
- 43% of us agree that we would feel better were we to get more sleep
One thing this tells us is that we as a nation are becoming busier and busier, getting less and less rest, and that working age adults are amongst the most sleep deprived in our society.
The Ill Effects of Too Little Sleep
But just why do we need so much sleep anyway? Isn’t sleeping long hours something which only unproductive people do?
Well, no, and in fact, it may be the other way around.
First, sleep is what rejuvenates us and resets our clock so that we can perform at our best during the day. Without adequate amounts of it, we experience a decline in cognitive function, impaired motor-skills, and lowered emotional intelligence.
What this means is that, even though you may be working harder than ever while burning the midnight oil, you are probably not getting as much done as you could be with sufficient rest.
Plus not sleeping enough increases your odds of getting into an accident, which can not only slow down your productivity, but can lead to injury or death as well.
And in addition to the effects of too little sleep on our cognitive function, there are some dire physical health ramifications to be considered, such as a reduction in our immune, cardiovascular and digestive functions.
In fact, have you ever noticed how a week or so of too little sleep can result in you catching a cold even if you are religious with your exercise regime.
This is a direct effect your lack of rest has on your immune system, which needs rest to produce such substances as cytokines to have enough energy to ward off infections.
In fact, during a controlled study in which participants were given a cold virus and asked to record their hours of sleep, those who average less than 5-hours of sleep per night increased their chances of catching a cold to a whopping 45.2%, while those who slept more than 7-hours per night were at around a 17% risk of coming down with a cold.
And even worse than a mere cold, your depleted immune system can leave you more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic illnesses, which will not only keep you from working, but can put you in an early grave.
Why Do Some of us Need Less Sleep than Others?
So, we always hear about those who get by just fine on 4-5 hours of sleep each night, and even envy their amazing abilities to leap out of bed well-rested and aware each morning, no matter how late into the night they worked.
Isn’t there some sort of secret we can be learning from these people, so that we too can outperform the rest of the world on little to no sleep?
No, there is not, since the “secret” of those who don’t need a lot of sleep has more to do with genetics than anything else.
In short, how much sleep each of us needs varies, based upon our family genes, energy output, and ability to recover.
Put it this way: Only around 1% of us are what we call “short sleepers,” or those with the ability to function fine on limited hours of sleep. At the same time, around 2% of our population are the opposite, and need around 10 hours of sleep each night to perform in a fully-functioning manner.
And of these two groups, there is no crossover, since sleep patterns are hardwired, and no amount of “learning” to alter the amount of time they sleep will do any good, other than putting those in need of more sleep at risk for the effects of sleep deprivation, and short sleepers at risk of…well, just wanting to get out of bed!
In a Nutshell
The bottom line is, whether you like it or not, staying up late and rising early is not the recipe for success; but rather it may be the recipe for some deadly health problems.
And, since a lack of sleep can impact your endocrine system, it can even put you at risk for:
- Lowered testosterone levels
- Decreased libido
- Weight gain
- Decrease in healthy stress response
- High blood pressure
And, for a real shocker, try this on for size: 1 in 6 (about 17%) of fatal automotive accidents can be linked to tired driving, which has been proven to be more dangerous than having a few drinks before getting behind the wheel.
Yes, you read that right. Tired driving can be worse than drunk driving!
What Should You Do?
The obvious thing you should do if you are sleep deprived is get more sleep.
However, just laying down for bed and planning on waking at a predetermined time may not be good enough, since consistency in sleep patterns also plays a role in proper rest.
First, determine just how much sleep you really need, and base your bedtime and waking hour upon it.
Plan on going to bed at the same time each night, no matter your workload, or which TV episode happens to be on.
Make sure your bedding is comfortable, and that your sleeping area is free of light, and is as cool as possible. Avoid sleeping with the heater on, which can not only worsen your quality of sleep, but is a waste of power, since your covers are there to keep you warm!
Turn off the TV, avoid your computer or other blue-light screens for a few hours before bed, and be sure not to exercise within 3-hours of bedtime.
And, enjoy the slumber—not to mention your increased productivity, and longer, healthier life!