- Rebecca Washuta
Lack of Sleep Could Be Hurting Your Brain & Body
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Compared to other healthy behaviors like eating vegetables and exercising, sleep is often overlooked, and is typically the first thing to go when we get busy. While it can be easy to get caught up with work, school, and our to do lists, burning the midnight oil can take a serious toll on your health. Check out some ways lack of sleep can impact your mind and body below:
Adequate sleep is essential for optimal brain functioning. When you are sleep deprived there is decreased activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for complex decision-making. Insufficient sleep can actually interfere with the ability of certain brain cells to function and communicate with one another, leading to reduced focus and poor information processing.1
Lack of sleep can take a significant toll on your physical health. According to studies done at Johns Hopkins University people who are sleep deprived are 3x more likely to catch a cold, and are at an increased risk for developing life threatening conditions like heart disease and colorectal cancer.2
Hormones & Weight
If you’ve been eating well and hitting the gym but still can’t lose those last few pounds, it’s time to take a look at your sleep hygiene. Sleep deprivation can significantly reduce your insulin sensitivity and can impact the hormones that control appetite. Studies have shown that the less time you spend in deep sleep the more likely you are to eat excess calories, which can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of obesity.3
How Much do we Really Need?
Most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. There is a small percentage of the population who appear to thrive with 6 hours of sleep or less per night, which is suspected to be due to a mutation in the DEC2 gene (wishing I were one of these people!). If you haven’t been getting enough shut eye you’re not alone. According to the CDC, approximately 35% of adults are considered sleep deprived, and the National Sleep foundation estimates that up 30% of adults have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep each night.4,5
A Healthier Sleep Routine
Establishing a healthier sleep routine starts with taking time to actually wind down. So many of us are go, go go, until 10pm and then wonder why we’re having trouble quieting our brains. A good place to start is putting away electronic devices at least 30 mins before bed. This is important because blue light can interfere with natural melatonin production. Another option is to invest in smart bulbs for your bedroom. These can be switched from harsh blue light to soft warm yellow lighting before bed by using an app on your phone. Calming activities like taking a bath infused with essential oils, reading a book, or practicing mindful breathing are great ways to relax and lower your cortisol before bed. Natural supplements like magnesium glycinate and melatonin can also be used to promote better sleep.
1. Yuval Nir, Thomas Andrillon, Amit Marmelshtein, Nanthia Suthana, Chiara Cirelli, Giulio Tononi, Itzhak Fried. Selective neuronal lapses precede human cognitive lapses following sleep deprivation. Nature Medicine, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nm.4433
3. Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Kasza K, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Sleep curtailment is accompanied by increased intake of calories from snacks. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(1):126–133. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26574
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Short Sleep Duration Among US Adults. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html. Updated May 2, 2017. Accessed April 2, 2019.
5. National Sleep Foundation. Lack of Sleep is Affecting Americans. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/lack-sleep-affecting-americans-finds-national-sleep-foundation. Updated December 2014. Accessed April 2, 2019.