Our bodies are designed to function optimally with exactly the right amount of sleep. When our thoughts get in the way of biology it can be extremely detrimental to our overall health. Have you ever watched your cat or dog sleep during the day? They aren’t lazy. They are just giving in to their nature. Even babies are programmed to get as much sleep as they need to grow normally. As adults we often allow outside pressures to affect our quality and quantity of sleep.
Several years ago, the Harvard Medical School shared information about sleep and health. While the study of sleep is still evolving, their findings on the importance of sleep for the body are still valid today.
Impaired sleep affects our immune system. A healthy immune system can fight off small infections that will not become problems for a normal adult. However, a prolonged lack of sleep or not enough regular sleep can cause the immune system to work less efficiently. There is even some indication that good sleep habits can help fight off cancer.
While exercise is extremely important for a healthy cardiovascular system, the right rest is also an essential building block of the body. Some sleep disorders can actually cause heart problems such as hypertension, irregular heartbeats, and increased stress hormones in the body.
There are varying degrees of mood disorders. Sometimes a bad mood is just a bad mood, but sometimes it can be an indicator of a larger problem, such as depression. Lack of sleep leads to irritability, impatience, and difficulty concentrating. If you are getting too little sleep you may not have enough energy to engage in the things that make you happy.
Sleep deprived motorists are responsible for a significant number of auto accidents each year. The effects of too little sleep can impair an adult in a similar way to intoxication. While this is an extreme example, lack of sleep can lead to many mistakes. Professionals who ensure the safety and health of others can be in a dire position if sleeplessness affects their ability to do their job.
Not getting enough sleep may also be contributing to weight gain among adults in the United States. Your sleep cycle is an essential part of your body’s metabolism. It affects the way our bodies process carbohydrates and can create a hormone imbalance that affects appetite.
Not enough sleep is one of the leading causes of issues with memory and recall. Sleep is an essential function to allowing your brain to remember and recall things that you have learned. Students who got enough sleep after learning new information do significantly better on tests than those who do not.
Occasional insomnia is not uncommon and usually nothing to worry about, but long-term sleep deprivation can be an issue that needs to be addressed.
Is your lack of sleep affecting other areas of your life?
Image by Benjamin Watson via Flickr