Remember when being told to ‘go to bed’ while adults got to stay up seemed cruel and unusual? Oh how I long for those days of boundless energy. Now that I’m older, sleep is a sacred privilege. Being able to sleep in on some (not all) weekends is like a precious gift.
But try as we might, most adults don’t get enough of the right kind of sleep. Sure, sure, we may lay in our beds for a certain number of hours every night, but that doesn’t mean we’re actually resting and recharging the way we’re supposed to. While it might feel cool to “burn the midnight oil” every once in a while, doing so can actually trigger a multitude of health problems. According to some estimates, 90 percent of people with insomnia — a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep — also have another health condition.
Read on to learn about 7 common health issues that affect many of us and can be solved by simply getting some more shut-eye.
1 . No Sex Drive
It’s OK, you can admit it. You just don’t get in the mood as often as you used to. If you (and your partner) are at a loss as to the cause, it may be because you’re not doing that other important between-the-sheets activity. You know, sleeping. “Sleep specialists say that sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex. Depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension may be largely to blame,” reports WebMD.
2. Bad Skin
Surprised at what you see in the mirror? Feel like you’ve aged 10 years in the past five? Sleep deprivation could be to blame. In a first-of-its-kind clinical trial earlier this year, physician-scientists at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center found a significant link between lack of sleep and increased signs of skin aging. The skin of those people who consistently failed to get enough sleep also experienced “slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Poor sleepers also had worse assessment of their own skin and facial appearance,” reports Science Daily.
3. Weight Gain
You spend at least 30 minutes at the gym five days a week, and you STILL can’t lose the extra weight. It might be because you’re not getting enough sleep. A recent study reported in the NY Times found that: “depriving people of sleep for one night created pronounced changes in the way their brains responded to high-calorie junk foods. On days when the subjects had not had proper sleep, fattening foods like potato chips and sweets stimulated stronger responses in a part of the brain that helps govern the motivation to eat. But at the same time, the subjects experienced a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex, a higher-level part of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made.”
Feeling down? Can’t seem to shake off the funk of depression, anxiety or general negativity? It could be because you’re not getting the right kind of rest. From WebMD: “In a 2005 ‘Sleep in America’ poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night. The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, has the strongest link to depression. In a 2007 study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without. In fact, insomnia is often one of the first symptoms of depression.”
5. Inability to Think Visually
You’ve got a big presentation about a big project coming up, and you want to impress your boss with your big ideas. But you find yourself staring at the blank screen, unable to articulate your ideas in a way that’s visually stimulating. A recent study found that our brains are much better at thinking visually and spotting visual patterns after we’ve gotten a full night’s sleep. “Researchers saw significant increases in sigma brainwave power after sleep compared to before in the visual cortical area in the occipital lobe of the volunteers’ brains,” reports Futurity.
6. Trouble Learning and Remembering
When we forget our sunglasses are on our head, or can’t remember the name of the client we just met, many of us chalk it up to old age or a lack of coffee, but lack of sleep is more likely to blame. “During the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories in the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day,” reports WebMD. And what about memory? Well, “In 2009, American and French researchers determined that brain events called ‘sharp wave ripples’ are responsible for consolidating memory. The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep.”
7. Premature Death
If you’d like to squeeze as much enjoyment out of life as possible, you better spend more of it sleeping. According to a recent study from Britain’s University of Warwick, “Those who slumbered for less than that amount of time were 12 percent more likely to die early, though researchers also found a link between sleeping more than nine hours and premature death.” So the idea, like Goldilocks, is to get it just right. The links below can help.
Image via Thinkstock
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