This is a guest post. 😊
Sometimes it seems today’s always switched-on world considers sleep as an inconvenience. Indeed, for a while, it was fashionable for business leaders to boast about how little time they spent horizontal. However, the deeper science looks into the issue, the more we’re realizing a balance of work, play – and rest – is essential. Read on to see if you should consider an adjustment.
1) Slow reactions
It’s no surprise to hear that fatigue (a lack of energy) and drowsiness (a desire to sleep) are signs you’re in need of rest, but there’s more to these two symptoms. Combined, they contribute to a slowing of reflexes which can be truly disastrous in various circumstances.
Perhaps most pointedly, America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates such lags in reaction time contribute to 100,000 car crashes a year – 1,550 of which are fatal.
2) Troubled mental health
Of course, not all those suffering with depression are doing so due to a lack of sleep – but there is a well-established correlation between chronic insomniacs and both depressive episodes and more general anxiety.
In fact, insomnia is often considered one of the earliest symptoms of depression, with those who struggle for enough sleep being considered five times more likely to develop mental health issues of one type or another. Happily, there is likewise usually an improvement in mood if more normal sleeping patterns can be restored (though each case is unique, and it shouldn’t be treated as an automatic cure-all).
3) Your skin is suffering
On a more cosmetic level, among the many physical effects a sleep deficit can wreak on your body is accelerated aging of the skin.
We all know how a bad night can lead to puffy skin and black rings under the eyes – and, it turns out, this is due to excess cortisol. Also known as the stress hormone, too much cortisol can break down the collagen which keeps your skin firm and elastic.
4) Memory problems
Given the proven benefits of (regular) adequate amounts of sleep on brain health, it should be obvious that our performance even in simple mental tasks will diminish without it.
Repeated studies have detected a measurable decline in concentration and problem-solving, so it’s especially important that students (or those with mentally-demanding jobs) should ensure enough rest to function at their best.
Even worse – since deep sleep is when our brains process the day’s experiences, those running short of that processing time can fail to retain many memories of the day before.
5) Weight gain
One of the more surprising symptoms of sleeplessness is an increased appetite – especially for high-calorie foods. And this, naturally enough, tends to lead to weight gain.
It’s thought the link comes from changes to the hormonal balance which keeps our food cravings at an appropriate level. With less sleep, the body produces more ghrelin (which stimulates cravings) and less leptin (which tells your brain you’re full). Taken together, it’s a recipe for overconsumption.
6) Reduced libido
Another less obvious side-effect of insomnia is a lowering of libido – for men and women.
With less clear-cut biological evidence, this may be something of an indirect connection. But if you consider the most common symptoms of sleeplessness – decreased energy, extra stress, worse moods and, of course, general drowsiness – it makes sense that the end result is less harmony in the bedroom.
Finally – if you do feel you’re suffering from any of the above – here are some general tips to help perfect your sleep patterns.