6 Ways You Didn’t Know Sleep Loss Hinders Your Health

When we reevaluate our health and wellness, we usually focus on diet and exercise. When we try to accommodate our busy schedules and over connected lifestyles, we usually focus on finding shortcuts and artificial energy boosts.

Few people include sleep as a solution for either. In fact, many forgo sleep to get more done. As you may have guessed, research shows this habit is very counterproductive.

Here’s the thing: Not only can insufficient sleep thwart overnight recovery from exercise, but poor sleep can also prevent skills from improving after lessons or practice. You may be crushing it at the gym, but inadequate sleep disrupts our basic metabolism and can even lead to weight gain.

Do I have your attention now?

Here’s where insufficient sleep may be sabotaging your health goals.

Weight Management
Sleeping less than seven hours per night can disrupt your body’s ability to properly regulate appetite and caloric intake. The hormones responsible for the feeling of hunger and of “being full” after a meal are thrown out of sync, potentially resulting in overeating. The tired brain compensates by consuming too many empty calories — usually starchy, sugary foods — the opposite of the desired outcome of most weight-loss routines. So no matter how satisfying that avo-toast could be, lack of sleep may have you craving more when you don’t need it.

Recovery From Exercise And Injury
Sleep is crucial after a general workout, or while recovering from an injury. During our deepest sleep, about 80 percent of the day’s allocation of the human growth hormone (HGH) is released, which is essential for increased muscle mass, bone strength, energy balance and strong immune response. Poor sleep has been shown to disrupt the secretion of HGH, dramatically altering our physiological response to exercise and daily activities. Ironically, many athletes end up overtraining as a result of their perceived lack of improvement, often resulting in injury. Think about that — did you really need to do those extra five deadlifts?

Skill, Memory, Learning, Creativity
Whether you’re a golf enthusiast, or a student studying academics, much of a good night’s sleep is dedicated to honing the skills and knowledge you acquired that day. The capacity to learn something new, retain it and then use it effectively requires nights of high-quality sleep throughout the process. A tired brain can’t readily absorb new knowledge or skills, nor can it be creative and form new insights.

Studies have shown that improving repetitive motor skills involving sequences of muscle movements (think of a golf swing) depend not only on how much you practice, but also how much you sleep! Poor sleep impairs skill development, so those hours at the driving range were all for naught if you didn’t end your day with a solid night of sleep.

Stamina And Endurance
Whether keeping up with the kids or your boss, sleep directly affects your energy levels. Even mild sleep deprivation alters our body’s metabolic function — including how we store energy after a meal and then retrieve that energy during physical activity. This means you hit “the wall” faster, or reach a point of exhaustion more quickly.

We tend to experience lapses of attention and slower reaction times when fatigued. These factors lead to an increased risk for automobile or workplace accidents. This also may lead to risk during training and exercise.

Emotional Health
When tired, we react more strongly to negative situations, and our coping skills are dulled. A vicious cycle ensues as stress negatively affects the quality of our sleep, and poor sleep leads to an inability to deal with additional stress — which is why poor sleep is a risk factor for depression.

It’s common to live our day, fill it with activities, work and entertainment, and leave the leftover hours for sleep. It’s time for it to be the other way around. Dedicating seven-and-a-half or eight hours a day to sleep and building everything around that can help create a healthier and happier you. Now go catch some Zs!

Just like diet and exercise, sleep is important for your optimal health — especially during flu season. Sleep Number® beds adjust on each side to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support to ensure you’re well-rested enough to fight germs that could be making you sick this season.