Far too many Americans don’t get enough sleep. When we feel pressed for time and have too much to do, we often sacrifice hours of sleep in order to cope. Maybe you’re someone who actually boasts about how little sleep you need each night. But many of us don’t understand just how vitally important that sleep is to our overall well-being. In fact, long-term sleep deprivation can be toxic to our health.
Without enough hours of sleep, we may wake up a little cranky and less focused than usual. But consistently getting insufficient sleep has larger, very real consequences to our physical health, too. Here are some of the harmful effects that sleep deprivation can have:
Lowered Immune Response. Studies report that people who aren’t getting enough sleep are at an increased chance of getting sick after being exposed to a virus. A persistent lack of sleep reduces the production of cytokines which are a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation.
Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Skimping on shut-eye causes hormonal disturbances. Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. To our bodies, sleep deprivation can mimic insulin resistance. The result is too much glucose in the bloodstream and a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
Increased Risk of Heart Disease. A chronic lack of proper sleep can affect our hearts in a number of ways. The rise of inflammatory agents when we are sleep-deprived raises blood pressure. Further, poor quality sleep is also associated with the development of coronary artery calcification which is another risk factor for heart disease.
The prolonged lack of adequate sleep is associated with a shortened lifespan. Aim to get at least 7 hours a night. Remember, sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessity.