How Sleep Loss Affects Your Body

We all know that getting a good night’s sleep helps us keep our jobs and our friends. But missing out on sleep can do more than just turn you into a grouch.

From your weight to your libido, lack of healthy sleep can affect many areas of your life.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

Sleep experts agree that adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for “optimal health.” Some people may need more to feel their best, but in general, falling below seven hours of sleep leads to many health consequences.

The Effects of Sleep Loss

So what happens when you fall below the magic number seven? You begin to build up a sleep debt that affects how your body functions in many ways.

UPMC_SleepLoss_C2

Brain

Sleep is tied to memory and cognition, and poor sleep habits lower your ability to process and retain new information. You may have trouble learning a new skill or remembering basic information. Chronic sleep loss can also lead to depression and anxiety.

Weight

When you lose sleep, the hormones that control your appetite get out of balance. Your body produces more of the hormone that makes you want to eat and less of the hormone that suppresses your appetite. You also may find that you crave the sweet, high-carb snacks that help build up love handles.

Skin

Notice those dark circles under your eyes after a few sleepless nights? They’re more likely to stick around, along with other skin changes, if you don’t stick to a decent bedtime. In one study, people who were sleep deprived found that their skin wasn’t able to recover as quickly from stressors such as sun exposure.

Libido

Losing sleep can also hurt your sex life. Self-reported measures have found that people who get less sleep at night have a lower sex drive. One study found that men with sleep apnea, which tends to cause poor-quality sleep, had less testosterone and lower libido.

Heart (and other organs)

People who get less than seven hours of sleep a night have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Lack of sleep can lead to more inflammation in your body and change how your body handles glucose, which contributes to type 2 diabetes. You’re also at higher risk for heart attack and stroke.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix to lower your risk of health problems: Make yourself a bedtime routine. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but it should be a priority. Sip a glass of chamomile tea or warm milk and climb in bed at the same time every night.

RELATED: Counting Sheep? How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Brain

If you have sleep apnea, insomnia, or some other sleep disorder, call the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center for a consultation. They can evaluate your sleep habits and get you on the path to healthy sleep habits.