Sleep affects your physical health in myriad ways. A number of studies have analyzed the important relationship between sleep and physical health. These studies have found just how essential sleep is to our physical health, as our body needs adequate rest to function properly.
Want to learn more about all the correlation between sleep and physical health? Keep reading to understand the ways in which sleep affects our lives!
How Does Sleep Affect Your Physical Health?
When we don’t get proper sleep, our physical health suffers. According to the Cleveland Clinic, lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Not getting enough sleep can also exacerbate existing conditions, as the immune system is weakened by poor sleep.
Though we know that sleep is essential for optimal physical health, many struggle to get enough. According to a CDC report from 2016, 1 in 3 Americans reported that they don’t get enough sleep. That number is likely even higher now, as the coronavirus pandemic has been associated with poorer sleep.
Benefits of Sleep on Physical Health
It can be surprising to learn just how many ways sleep can improve our physical health. When we sleep, our bodies are repairing and restoring a number of systems, including the immune system and muscular system.
Sleep also allows your brain to consolidate memories, and is essential for your long-term memory. Sleep is also important for the cardiovascular system, as during rest heart rate and blood pressure rise and fall.
Lastly, your body releases hormones during sleep that help it repair itself and regulate its energy usage — these hormones help the body maintain a healthy weight.
Negative Effects of Sleep Deficiency
Sleep is necessary for so many processes that allow the body to function properly, so it makes sense that a lack of it can lead to serious negative health consequences. Sleep deprivation has been linked with life-threatening disorders, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression.
Take a look below at some of the short-term and long-term effects of sleep deprivation.
- Forgetfulness – As sleep is necessary for consolidating memories, a lack of it can lead to trouble remembering.
- Moodiness – Those with sleep deprivation report increases in negative moods like anger, frustration, and sadness.
- Stress – Stress can both cause and be worsened by sleep deprivation. When stressed, the body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which increase heart rate and blood pressure.
- Performance Issues – A lack of sleep can reduce our reaction times, making everyday tasks like driving and working much harder.
High Blood Pressure
According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep deprivation can lead to increased blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to negative health consequences, like heart disease, kidney disease, vision problems, and an increased risk for diabetes.
Sleep is essential for metabolic health, and deprivation can lead to increased insulin resistance and risk for type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, a lack of sleep can make it harder to manage, as your blood sugar levels become more unstable with insufficient sleep.
Research shows that lack of sleep is associated with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and an increased risk for heart attacks. In addition, those with sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea are more likely to have heart disease and coronary heart failure.
Lack of sleep leads to an increased risk for obesity. Sleep affects the production of the satiety and hunger hormones, which help keep the body at a healthy weight. One study showed that those who are sleep deprived experience increased hunger and consume more. The same study found that sleep deprived participants preferred higher carbohydrate and fatty foods.
Sleep Deprivation and Physical Health
As seen above, sleep deprivation can lead to a number of negative physical health consequences. From weight gain to an impaired immune system, a lack of sleep is bad for the body. It can also lead to an increased risk of accidents, as the body’s response time is slowed and balance is impaired.
Though it may seem like prioritizing work or your social life over sleep isn’t a big deal, it can lead to serious health risks.
Tips for Getting Better Sleep
If you want to keep your body functioning optimally, you’ll need to get sufficient and efficient sleep. Though it sounds simple, for many it can be a challenge.
Take a look below at some of our top tips for getting better sleep.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. This makes for an optimal sleep environment.
- Don’t use your smartphone for at least 30 minutes before bed. The blue light emitted from devices keeps the mind awake.
- Go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each day. This will train your body to know when it’s time to rest.
- Exercise on a regular basis (but not right before bedtime). Regular physical activity will help tire your body out and get it ready for rest.
- Don’t consume caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime. You’ll want to stop drinking caffeine about four hours before bed, and alcohol at least two.
- Only use your body for sleep and sex. This will help you associate your bed with these activities only.
You can find more tips and tricks in our detailed sleep hygiene guide.