The Bizarre Side Effects of Only Getting 6 Hours of Sleep Or Less
Getting too little sleep is terrible for your health and productivity! Snooze. Heard it a million times. Some of us have been chugging along on six hours of sleep for years and are seemingly fine. Right? Here’s a little fact you probably haven’t heard: when you get 6 hours of sleep or less cumulatively, you’ll function as poorly as if you’d been forced to stay awake for two days straight.
Shocked? In disbelief?
This research study from the NIH has just proved that a regular lack of sufficient sleep is equal to getting no sleep at all. More specifically, cognitive performance on 6 hours of sleep (or less) for two weeks straight is the equivalent to total sleep deprivation for two nights. This sleep study from the NIH journal, Sleep, proves that sleep can’t be chronically reduced WITHOUT sacrificing performance. But here’s the plot-twist: the subjects who were only allowed to get six hours of sleep a night thought that they were doing just fine. On average, they rated their sleepiness levels low even though their cognitive performances were way downhill. This begs the question: how many of us get too little sleep and don’t pay enough attention to the side effects? What will happen if we don’t start getting more sleep?
We’ll unpack these questions one by one and toss out a few of our favorite suggestions for making sure you get those full 8 hours (sorry folks, Doctor’s orders).
The Side Effects Of Getting 6 Hours Of Sleep Or Less
Your cognitive performance declines.
Our brain’s ability to function relies on certain chemicals to be in balance. And those chemicals go out of whack when we don’t get enough sleep. Did you know that lack of sleep is responsible for more car-related fatalities than alcohol? That’s because the effects of severe sleep deprivation and alcohol intoxication on our brains are more or less the same.
Alex Dimitriu, MD, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine, agrees. “A lack of sleep can affect your attention, focus, and memory”. This is because your brain needs sleep to store information you learned and to make more storage space available. “I see a lot of people in their 20’s and 30’s reporting ADHD symptoms or “early onset Alzheimer’s”, when the reality is they are sleep-deprived.”
You’re more stressed and irritated.
Okay, maybe this isn’t a total shocker. But sleep is essential for our bodies and brains to recover from a stressful day. When the brain doesn’t get adequate sleep, it’s emotion-centers become hyperactive to negative stimuli compared to a well-rested brain. In other words, sleep less and you’ll become more irritated at things that normally wouldn’t bother you.
You risk heart disease and high blood pressure.
Yes, short term sleep deprivation has significant effects on the cardiovascular system. Research has proven that sleep deprivation increases the risk of heart disease. But why? Basically, lack of sleep increases your heart rate and raises your blood pressure. The American Cardiovascular Society says that even just the loss of one hour’s sleep combined with daily stress is enough to have detrimental effects, like heart attack and disease.
You feel more hungry, even when you’re full.
When we sleep well, the hormones that control our hunger stay in balance. But when we sleep poorly, those hunger hormones go out of whack. Leptin, the hormone that causes us to feel full, is lower and ghrelin, the hormone that makes us feel hungry, is higher when we don’t get enough sleep. This results in weight gain and overeating.
You lay a foundation for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
For the brain, sleep is the time to detox. It needs the full eight hours in order to purge the waste (chemicals that were emitted during the day) out so that they don’t build up over time, inhibiting our neural processing. Recent studies prove that when sleep is cut short even just one night, our brains have elevated levels of beta-amyloid which is the precursor for Alzheimer’s disease.
The ever-so-obvious solution of “just getting more sleep” couldn’t be a farther reach. Luckily, this is 2019 and we have the technology. If you need some smarter* bedroom upgrades to help you boost the quality and amount of sleep you’re getting at night, we’ve got some solutions!
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