6 Reasons Why Sleep is More Important Than Everything Else

2 years ago
flickr sleep deprivation

Photo: Flickr/CollegeDegrees360

Society today really likes to put down sleep. We brag to each other about how tired we are, and coffee’s obviously the drink of choice, hands down, for practically every adult  (and a lot of kids!) today. Long-term sleep deprivation is practically trending.

But here’s a newsflash: you’re not helping yourself by denying yourself healthful sleep. On the contrary, interrupting your natural sleep patterns could seriously mess up your waking hours. Here are some shocking facts about sleep deprivation you’ll hardly believe.

1. Sleeping less could make you gain weight.

Though you might initially think that more hours awake = higher metabolic rate, that’s totally incorrect. When you don’t sleep enough, your brain produces higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels are up, you’ll crave junk food more, while your clear-thinking defenses against eating mindlessly are automatically down. It’s proven that, when you’ve had less sleep, you’re more likely to choose larger portions of unhealthier food.

In other words, sleep deprivation kicks you – in the gut – while you’re down.

2. Not even coffee will save you.

Caffeine might just be perpetuating a long cycle of sleep deprivation, especially if you’re slurping it down after 5 PM. When you drink coffee less than six hours before you plan to go to bed, your sleep patterns will be disrupted.

Here’s the kicker: if you drink coffee while stress hormones are coursing through your body, you’ll need more of it to get that same caffeine buzz. What a rip-off!

3. Sometimes, meditation is more helpful than sleep.

I didn’t believe it either, but just ten minutes of quietly sitting as you clear your mind will dramatically cut down stress levels and help you relax as much as, if not more than, a 30-minute nap. And it’s way easier to give yourself ten minutes to decompress with a guided YouTube meditation than it is to sneak half an hour of sleep in the office.

You can even double up on meditation while you ride the bus to work, or while you’re hanging out in Downward Dog in the morning.

 4. Pulling an all-nighter might make you stupider.

Well, not permanently. But not getting enough REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the deepest kind which takes about 90 minutes to reach, can result in forgetfulness and a dramatic lack of alertness. So if you absolutely must stay up late studying, try, try, try your best to make it just a half-nighter. One full sleep cycle is way better than nothing.

5. Not sleeping enough can lead to long-term high blood pressure.

And high blood pressure is correlated with almost every all of the most dangerous health conditions today, including stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. It comes back down to the question of stress hormones: when you’re producing cortisol in greater amounts, as you’ll do when you don’t sleep enough, your blood pressure will increase in response.

It’s all one big chain reaction, and the only way to stop it is by getting enough rest.

6. Getting too few Zzz’s will give you bad skin.

Not to harp on cortisol, but the angry little stress hormone really does a lot to counteract happy living. And one of the things cortisol does best is break down the collagen in your skin, causing you to develop fine lines, just like sun exposure or aging would.

It’s certainly not a bad thing to have a few laugh lines, but I’d rather get them from actually having fun, not from twitchily studying all night over a bottomless cup of coffee.

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