We get it—you’re busy. Maybe you’re swamped at work, or the only time you can squeeze in a workout is early in the morning or late at night. Maybe you’re caring for your children or your parents and there’s little time left for you. Something has to give and usually it’s sleep. You might find yourself working late into the night to meet that deadline or the only time you can wash the kitchen floor is after everyone else is in bed. Maybe you’re just a night owl who enjoys staying up watching TV or reading. But that lack of sleep is going to catch up with you sooner rather than later and you probably don’t even know how detrimental it is to your health.
Below are five surprising health hazards of not getting enough sleep:
1. Obesity – When you don’t get enough sleep (even for just one night), your body’s balance of two appetite hormones is thrown out of whack. There are two appetite hormones—leptin and ghrelin. Leptin controls your appetite. When you’re overtired, your leptin levels go down. At the same time, your levels of ghrelin go up, telling your body that you’re hungry. The higher your ghrelin levels, the more you want to eat.
2. Heart Disease – If you’re not getting enough sleep, you have more stress hormones in your body. Stress hormones damage blood vessels, which can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. If you already have high blood pressure, sleep deprivation can make it worse. The news is even worse for men—their chances of heart disease due to lack of sleep are far greater than their female counterparts.
3. Diabetes – A 2007 study published in Sleep Medicine Review found that after just one night of sleep deprivation, the body has a decreased ability to handle glucose. It’s like a vicious cycle with diabetes being linked to obesity and obesity being connected back to sleep deprivation.
4. Depression – Insomnia (the most common sleep disorder) has the strongest link to depression. In another 2007 study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were fives times more likely to develop depression than those without. Experts suggest that insomnia is often one of the first symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, the two feed off each other with sleep loss aggravating the symptoms of depression and depression making it more difficult to fall asleep. Fortunately, treating one or both usually resolves the problem.
5. Aging – We’re all familiar with the dark circles that appear under our eyes when we’re tired, but chronic sleep loss can actually increase aging of your skin. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. Sleep loss also causes the body to not release enough human growth hormone. As a child, human growth hormone helps you grow. As an adult, it helps increase muscle mass, thicken skin and strengthen bones.