The need for sleep

If you’ve been skimping on sleep to get more done during your waking hours, you may be fooling yourself if you think you’re getting away with it. The truth is, insufficient shuteye can compromise the way that you feel and function around the clock, often in sneaky ways. After all, good-quality sleep provides your mind and body with the opportunity for renewal and rejuvenation, which can help enhance your everyday performance. Here’s a head-to-toe look at the reality of what happens when you cheat on sleep.


Your mind won’t function optimally. 

Sleep is critical for the formation and consolidation of memories—and for your ability to retrieve them while you’re awake. Plus, when you’re tired, it’s more difficult to learn something new or to pay attention to whatever it is you should be attending to. These deficits can compromise your creativity, your ability to make decisions or solve problems, and your work performance.


Your mood can take a nosedive. 

Getting enough shuteye helps with mood and emotion regulation, so you might feel cranky, irritable, or emotionally out of sorts if you don’t snooze enough. What’s more, you could become more reactive to stress than usual.


Your reaction time may suffer. 

Believe it or not, going just 19 hours without sleep can compromise your speed and accuracy on tests of judgment and motor reaction time as much as if you were legally drunk. Naturally, this can increase your risk of having a car accident, as well as performing badly at other tasks involving quick thinking and coordination.

You can end up looking bad. 

Literally! Consistently skimping on sleep can lead to premature wrinkling and sagging of your skin, partly because cortisol (a stress hormone that’s released when you’re sleep-deprived) can break down collagen, which keeps your skin smooth. You can also feel colder than usual because sleep is essential for body temperature regulation.


Your heart can suffer. 

Sleeping fewer than six hours a night can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure or worsen high blood pressure if you already have it. Plus, over time, skimping on sleep can increase your odds of developing cardiovascular disease.


Your appetite can go into overdrive. 

When you don’t get enough sleep, you may feel hungrier than usual and crave high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods, in particular. Your body’s fullness (satiety) signals also get thrown out of whack. These effects can lead to unwanted weight gain.


Your immune system will take a hit. 

When you’re tired and even moderately sleep-deprived, your immune function is compromised. This can leave you vulnerable to catching colds, the flu, and other infectious illnesses—and make it harder to recover from infections and heal from wounds.


Three major reasons to make high-quality snooze time a top priority

In American culture, the mantra is typically: “You snooze, you lose.” But in reality, if you don’t snooze, you lose! Below, find out how getting an optimal amount of sleep each night can lead to physical, cognitive, and emotional improvements during the day.


How Sleep Affects Your Body

Sleep is important for healthy immune function, because it boosts your odds of fighting off infections that you may be exposed to on any given day. It also helps regulate body temperature, hormone levels, digestion, and appetite. So if you stay up until the wee hours of the morning, you might feel very cold and/or experience digestive distress or changes in your appetite (hello, carb cravings!)  Staying well rested can also enhance physical attributes that may improve your overall athletic performance, including your energy level, coordination, agility, speed, and endurance. In fact, find out how a growing number of athletes are making sleep a priority.


How Sleep Affects Your Mind

It’s no secret that high-quality shut-eye is important for attention, concentration, reflexes, decision-making, and judgment. If you get enough quality sleep each night, you should be able to sustain alertness and focus for much of the day. If you don’t, you may struggle to function optimally at work, at home, or anywhere else—and you may not be as sharp, productive, or creative as you’d like to be. That’s why sleep-deprived people are a hazard behind the wheel and are at higher risk for injuries at work. Sleep also plays a role in the consolidation of memory—the process of storing information in the memory bank—thanks, in part, to the strengthening of the neural connections that occurs during snooze time. So getting enough sleep helps you learn new information.


How Sleep Affects Your Mood  

It’s not a fluke that you often wake up in a good mood after a blissful night’s sleep. While you get the proper amount of zzz’s, your body regulates the flow of feel-good brain chemicals, such as epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. So you have a better chance of waking up feeling refreshed, energized, positive, and confident. In other words, sleeping for the ideal number of hours can help you sidestep or minimize the moody blues.

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