Sleep is often one of the first things to go when people feel pressed for time. Many view sleep as a luxury and think that the benefits of limiting the hours they spend asleep outweigh the costs. People often overlook the potential long-term health consequences of insufficient sleep. The short-term effects of sleep include slow responses and lapses in concentration during the day. For some people, these effects might not manifest as fast as in others. However, continuous lack of sleep can be detrimental to your health.
You can suffer from mental, digestive and cardiovascular illnesses among others. In fact, a number of health experts attribute the lack of proper sleep to numerous health problems. Your body needs at least seven hours of sleep. Failure to that will see you suffer from the following.
The Immune System
Your immune system is a great beneficiary of proper sleep. While sleeping, substances such as cytokines get into your system courtesy of your immune system. They embark on a war, fighting various bacteria and viruses, thus keeping you healthy and defending your body against harmful illness-causing pathogens.
Sleep helps the body redistribute energy resources that are primarily used for brain and muscle work to the immune system. During sleep, the immune cells get out of the circulation, settle in the lymph nodes, and start getting ready for the next day of work
If you lack sleep for a long time, the immune system will produce fewer substances helpful in defending your body. Furthermore, you can take longer to recover from an illness
The Digestive System
Certain hormones in your body tell your brain how hungry and how full you are. These hormones are leptin and ghrelin. Any imbalance in these two hormones can cause a difference in food intake, which can lead to a number of weight-related diseases.
Reduced sleep will signal your brain to increase ghrelin and reduce leptin which will cause an increase in appetite. This explains why some people eat too much at night leading to an increase in weight.
Lack of sleep can also increase insulin levels. Blood sugar levels maintain a specific balance thanks to insulin. High levels of insulin can cause type 2 diabetes.
The Cardiovascular System
Sleep is essential for a healthy heart. People who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. Getting enough good quality sleep is important if you want to lower you risk of these conditions. During sleep, your body enters a state of relaxation. This helps the body to rejuvenate in readiness for the next day. Part of relaxation involves repairing various body parts like blood vessels and the heart.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you risk getting cardiovascular diseases which can lead to serious illnesses like strokes and heart attacks.
The Endocrine System
Multiple hormones rely on your quality of sleep. For example, you need three hours of sleep for a healthy production of testosterone. Any interruptions during sleep can affect hormone production.
For children and adolescents, the growth hormone is important for healthy growth which includes cell repair, muscle growth among others.
It is an old wives’ tale that if you don’t sleep well, you will get sick, and there is some experimental data that shows this is true.