Forty percent of Americans are sleep deprived – many get less than five hours of sleep per night. While most people don’t give lack of sleep much thought, there are in fact life-threatening consequences. When you allow yourself to work late, watch TV, stay out until midnight or get caught up with your favorite games, you deprive yourself of a critical element of optimal health and brain function.
Here are five significant risks to your mental and physical well-being:
Your reaction time slows down
When you’re sleep-deprived, driving and other potentially dangerous activities become risky. Sleepiness behind the wheel is nearly as dangerous as drinking and driving.
Your thinking suffers
Just a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day. Without enough rest and sleep, you will have difficulty processing information and making decisions. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to developing Alzheimer’s disease sooner than those who sleep well.
Immune function deteriorates
Sleep deprivation, just like physical stress or illness, depletes your immune system and is associated with an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
A decline in memory and learning
Our brains have neuroplasticity, the ability to grow new neurons and heal itself. It is the foundation of your brain’s capacity to control behavior, learning and memory. However, sleep loss interferes with this process. Getting at least eight hours of sleep works to strengthen your capacity for learning and memory.
Without sufficient sleep, your emotions are more reactive. You are more likely to have arguments with colleagues and family, and you are more apt to blow things out of proportion. When you’re well-rested, your brain will help you manage your emotions.
Start to increase your awareness of signs that your body is sending you. It’s telling you something important! Trust these signals, and listen to the messages, so you take action. Face that you may be in denial. Learning to listen to your body will take you to new levels of self-awareness and health. You’ll get sick less often; your weight will optimize, you’ll have energy, a better memory – and all of those little annoying symptoms will get the attention they need so you are always your best self!