How well do you sleep every night? If you struggle to fall asleep or wake up rested, you’re not alone. People are exhausted and the problem is widespread. According to statistics, about 40% of adults unintentionally fall asleep during the day, and millions of Americans report having some kind of sleep disorder.
If you’re one of the many people who find it challenging to get a good night’s sleep, you may want to do something about it because a lack of quality sleep can really diminish your quality of life. The biggest obstacle is that you might not know you have a sleep disorder and attribute your exhaustion to something else, like being overworked.
Are you being negatively impacted? Here are several ways poor sleep might be harming your health and how you can get better sleep.
1. Sleep deprivation impairs cognitive function
Your brain needs uninterrupted downtime each night to process and integrate things you’ve learned throughout the day, form memories, and initiate cellular repair. When your brain is deprived of this process through sleep deprivation, your cognitive function declines.
If you’re not getting a full night of uninterrupted, restful sleep, try to identify the root. Are noises or people waking you up in the middle of the night? Do you sleep solid, but not feel rested?
Fix the circumstances within your control, and if that doesn’t help, talk to a sleep therapist about participating in a sleep study to get a diagnosis and pinpoint the cause. Sleep problems are much easier to treat with a formal diagnosis.
2. Lack of sleep keeps stress hormones flowing
Sleep deprivation elevates cortisol levels in the body long-term, keeping you in a state of hypervigilance where you overreact to stressful situations. This is the reason most people feel annoyed when they haven’t gotten enough sleep.
Having elevated cortisol for prolonged periods does more than just make you grumpy. It can suppress your immune system, cause heart disease, digestive issues, and increase blood sugar.
3. Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain
The amount of sleep you get can increase or decrease your levels of hunger and satiety hormones (ghrelin and leptin, respectively).
In one study discussed by Scientific American, test subjects who had four hours of sleep for two consecutive days had a 28% higher level of ghrelin (hunger) and 18% lower level of leptin (satiety) in their blood compared to subjects who had ten hours of sleep.
Many studies have noted that participants tend to eat about 400 more calories per day after they’ve been sleep deprived, causing some people to gain weight during the studies.
4. Get your sleep back on track
If you don’t know what’s disrupting your sleep, talk to a therapist to get diagnosed and see if you can participate in a sleep study. Once you have a diagnosis, you’ll have an easier time finding a solution.