So often, when we discuss being healthy, we often talk about eating better food or going to the gym. But exercise and diet don’t tell the full story of your health. In fact, how much sleep you get–and the quality of your sleep–can greatly impact your wellbeing. Let’s dive into some hidden effects of sleep deprivation and why you should aim for eight hours of sleep a night.
Slows Cognitive Functioning
Our brains are less active when we don’t get enough sleep. Less sleep takes us longer to complete tasks, and we’re more likely to make mistakes. In fact, a study in the Lancet showed that those who were sleep-deprived took 14% longer to complete tasks and made 20% more errors than those who were well-rested. Sleep impacts how you think; if you want your cognitive health to be in the best shape possible, you need to catch regular Zzzs.
Weakened Immune System
When we sleep, we produce more natural killer (NK) cells which are the first line of defense against infections like the cold and COVID. One night without sleep can reduce NK cell production by 70%. But what exactly does this translate into for your health at a less microscopic level?
Basically, the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to get sick. Getting less than seven hours of sleep is associated with being three times more likely to catch a common cold, and getting less than five hours of sleep increases your chance of getting pneumonia by over 60%. Even if you catch an infection, you’re more likely to recover faster, and your body will respond better to vaccines if you get enough sleep.
You’re more likely to grab unhealthy snacks when you don’t get enough sleep. This is because sleep keeps hunger and sugar cravings at bay. In fact, researchers have studied the gut microbiome of those who get enough sleep and those who don’t and found them to be remarkably different. One was healthy and supported a faster metabolism, while the other was full of bad gut bacteria–we’ll let you decide which was which. When you choose to sleep more, you’re also deciding on better gut health and a faster metabolism.
Sleep must be a priority to live a healthy life, right alongside eating right and exercising. While getting eight hours a night is best, naps can also help fend off sleep deprivation if you can’t sleep enough at night. Now go get that beauty sleep!