Whether you are up until the early hours of the morning binge-watching shows on Netflix or simply staying up late because there’s too much work to do, one thing’s for sure – your body’s taking the brunt of your actions.
But why is sleep so important? Because not getting enough shut-eye can lead to some not-so-great outcomes.
Experts weigh in on the scary things that happen to your body when you do not get enough time under the covers:
1. You gain weight
Looking to shave off those pesky pounds? Lack of sleep certainly doesn’t help. In fact, it does the opposite of help.
“People who are sleep deprived have an increased appetite,” says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Health Bible for Women.
“Inadequate sleep lowers levels of leptin – a hormone that suppresses appetite, and increases grehlin – a hormone that increases food intake and is thought to play a role in long-term regulation of body weight.
“Sleep deprivation can make weight loss extremely difficult because it causes your body to work against you.”
2. Your immune system is compromised
Lack of sleep is known to lower the body’s immune response.
A recent study found reducing the amount of sleep time every night lowered the number of “natural killer cells” which are responsible for fighting off invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
“A lack of sleep can impair the body’s ability to fend off diseases and inflammation, which in turn, can cause us to catch more colds or slow down the processes of recovery,” says nutritional therapist Geeta Sidhu-Robb, who is the founder of Nosh Detox.
“No sleep means your body doesn’t have time to build up its defence system – the antibodies and cells that attack viruses and unfriendly bacteria.”
3. Your stress levels rocket
Inadequate sleep can affect our cortisol levels – the hormone that help us manage stress.
“Lack of sleep increases stress which produces the hormone cortisol,” says Sidhu-Robb. “Cortisol can also reduce collagen in the skin, which is what keeps it looking young and provides elasticity.”
Recent studies by the American Sleep Disorders Association and Sleep Research Society found sleep deprivation in young men “was followed 12-24 hours later by a delay in the return to quiescence of cortisol secretion, resulting in an elevation of evening cortisol levels”.
Stress and ageing skin – not a combination worth losing your sleep for.
4. Your heart weakens
During sleep, the heart powers down significantly – reducing blood pressure and the heart rate, which is important for the health of the organ. By not getting enough sleep, your heart might not have enough time to lower your blood pressure to necessary levels.
“Research shows that those who sleep five hours or less a night are twice as likely to suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease as those who sleep for seven hours or more,” says Dr Glenville.
A study conducted by a team from Mount Sinai Hospital showed having less than five hours of sleep each night had an 83% increased risk of stroke compared to sleepers who got seven to eight hours of shut-eye.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to an rise in C-reactive protein – an unhealthy protein that has been linked to a number of risk factors associated with heart disease.
5. Your brain becomes foggy
Sleep deprivation affects our ability to learn and retain new information and can lead to poor long and short-term memory, not to mention poor decision-making. In other words, no sleep equals brain fog.
“When we sleep our body and brain don’t actually shut off – we have light sleep phases and deeper ones,” says Neil Robinson, Sealy UK‘s resident sleep expert. “While we sleep in the deeper phases, our brain stays busy, overseeing an internal maintenance schedule that keeps us running in top condition.
“This helps the body repair itself and build energy for the day ahead – our muscles and tissues recover, our immune system gets a boost and all the information we have absorbed during the day gets consolidated in our memory.
“Without enough hours of this type of restorative sleep, we won’t function, work, learn, create, and communicate at an effective level.”
6. Your libido plummets
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed a group of young men, who slept five hours a night for one week.
At the end of the week, researchers found those who took part in the experiment had low energy, were unable to focus and had a lower sex drive.
“Lack of sleep can lead to high stress hormones that lower sex hormones,” says Sidhu-Robb. “And that generally leads to a low libido and sex drive.”
7. Your skin starts to age
Sleep deprivation leads to inflammation which can lead to poor skin conditions such as dullness, dryness, spots and dark circles under the eyes. It can also age your skin.
“We all know that we look and feel worse after a bad night’s sleep,” says Georgie Cleeve, founder of skincare company OSKIA. “There is a real biological reason why a bad night’s sleep can play havoc with your skin.
“When we sleep the brain produces a brilliant chemical called Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short. It’s essentially our cell battery power and runs all our cellular processes throughout the day.
“So less sleep equals less ATP. And that means less collagen production.