I know I'm supposed to spend about eight hours a night snoozing away in my cozy bed, but with work, my family, and all my other commitments, sometimes sleep gets put on the back burner. I always thought that if I felt OK, then it wasn't doing any harm to my health, but recent research will have you reaching for your pajamas and pillow.
Most Americans are sleeping an average of 6.9 hours a night, and although they may just feel a little sleepy during the day, the deprivation is tremendously affecting their brain functions and reaction times. When volunteers in a University of Pennsylvania sleep study were restricted to less than six hours of sleep for two weeks, by the end, they were just as impaired as those who had been awake for 48 hours straight.
Aside from feeling foggy-headed, research also shows that lack of sleep changes how our bodies secrete hormones. It causes an increase in appetite and reduced sensation of feeling full after eating, and it affects the body's response to sugar. If you're constantly deprived of shut-eye, you're more at risk for obesity and developing diabetes. As if that wasn't enough, sleep deprivation is also linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Don't lose sleep over not getting enough zzz's. The effects of sleep deprivation can be reversed once you start sleeping the recommended seven to nine hours a night. In a University of Chicago sleep and appetite study, the level of hunger hormones in subjects returned to normal when they were allowed to sleep 10 hours for two consecutive nights.