Things That Can Happen If You Don't Sleep Enough

by Isadora Baum, CHC

Sleep is so critical for your every day schedule. Not getting enough Zs each night can really catch up to you and interfere with your productivity and mood, and what can happen to your body if you get less than 6 hours of sleep for a few days in a row can be really bad and affect you over time if not addressed. Unless you start making some healthier habits and prioritize getting to bed earlier, it can turn into a larger, more chronic problem.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on getting enough sleep in the week, as missing out on a few days, especially consecutive ones, can really hinder your ability to concentrate at work and stay energized and alive during social obligations. Not getting enough sleep can also interfere with your immune system and cause inflammation in the body, advises certified healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines over email with Bustle. Setting an alarm clock to go to bed earlier at night, eating the right foods, shutting down stimulating gadgets, and just prepping the body for bed ahead of time can all help you get the rest you need to feel refreshed come morning. Here are 11 things that can happen to your body if you don't sleep for more than 6 hours a night for a few days in a row.

1. Waking Up Not Refreshed

According to the health experts behind matcha LOVE over email with Bustle, not feeling refreshed in the a.m. is a clear sign. "Try downloading a Sleep Cycle alarm clock, which will wake you up in the lightest sleep phase so you wake up feeling completely rested, don’t exercise within 4 hours of sleeping, and keep a sleep diary to track your daily activity vs. your night patterns so you know where you need to make schedule changes," the team advises.

2. Slower Cognition

"Sleep deprivation significantly dulls a sharp brain, slowing cognition, hampering reaction time, and slaying social skills," advises Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO and Co-Founder of sleep technology company, Reverie® over email with Bustle. Not getting enough sleep for a few days in a row can affect brain power, and if left untreated, can hinder function long-term.

3. Inability To Read Emotions

Not only does inadequate sleep mess with your brain activity to be productive, focused, and quick in thought, but it can also interfere with social and emotional skills (which can perhaps lead to greater conflict or impaired relationships). "This also means an impaired ability to empathize, read others’ emotions, make judgments, think about future consequences, and resolve conflict," advises Rawls-Meehan.

4. Greater Risk Of Heart Conditions

"The odds of experiencing high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, coronary artery disease, and heart attacks all increase with chronic sleep deprivation," advises Rawls-Meehan. "In fact, seventy-five percent of people who have heart failure report frequent insomnia," Rawls-Meehan adds.

5. Muscle Loss

According to Dr. Melina Jampolis (TomTom health expert, internist and board certified physician nutrition specialist), over email with Bustle, "fatigue leading to decreased physical activity during the day (which can also lead to muscle loss)," can happen. "It’s so important to track your sleep and Body Composition Analysis (BCA). Understanding the breakdown of your BCA readings of fat and muscle percentages (which you have the most control over), is the best way to determine overall health. New devices like the TomTom Touch will give you a BCA reading right from your wrist and also includes a sleep tracker,” Jampolis adds.

6. Increased Cravings

Jampolis also says that increased cravings can occur when there's not enough rest each night, and the body is yearning for foods. Due to an imbalance in hormones, Jampolis adds, the hormones signaling appetite and appetite suppression are thrown off. Jampolis says these cravings are often for high-fat foods and sugar.

7. Slower Metabolism

"Being sleep deprived slows down the body's metabolism, making it harder to digest the food it gets through the day, causing rapid belly fat growth. Sleeping is like nourishment and food, so it's important that we get at least 8 hours per night and if not make up for it the next day," advises nutritional expert Liana Werner-Gray, over email with Bustle. "Failing to get the proper amount of sleep consecutive nights can have many negative effects on your body that can ultimately lead to weight gain," adds Jampolis.

8. High Blood Sugar

Werner-Gray says that not getting enough sleep can also put you at greater risk of high and unbalanced blood sugar levels, which can increase incidence of disease over time (such as heart disease or diabetes). Having steady blood sugar levels will benefit your longevity, body, and mood.

9. Lower Immune System

Not sleeping for 36 hours or more can negatively impact your immune system, leading to a few sick days at work (which can certainly add up). Sleep helps keep you healthy, so if you miss out on those hours, you might become too fatigued to fight off pathogens and germs.

10. Lower Libido

Not getting enough sleep can make you less enticed to get frisky with your S.O. Going a few days without much sleep can make you feel so tired that you're not likely to want to have sex or feel very sexual. Getting 7-8 hours nightly will help you have a higher sex drive.

11. Sperm Count Decreases

Due to a decrease in testosterone levels that comes with inadequate sleep, men's sperm count can lessen and his hormones will be imbalanced in the day. Lower testosterone can also lead to muscle loss, as well. Get enough sleep to keep those swimmers speedy and healthy.

If you notice any of these symptoms, and you're tracking your sleep patterns and realize that you're getting fewer than 6 hours nightly, it's wise to come up with an alternative to secure those missed minutes. The benefits are real, and your body and mind will thank you.

Images: Pixabay (12)