Last Friday night I had one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in recent memory and woke up feeing like a new person. Really. Tons of energy. Clear head. No cravings. No negativity. And then Sunday night I had one of the worst nights in weeks and all day felt horrible; zero energy, foggy mind, carb cravings.
The weekend illustrated the two extremes for me. I sleep well most of the time, but frequently about 30 minutes (or 60) short of my own personal ideal. I know people who are highly functioning on 4-5 hours ( a very small percentage of the population can do this) and I know plenty of people who insist on 8-9 hours. Regardless of how much sleep it takes for you to be your best, the science is pretty convincing about what happens when you don’t get it:
- Impaired immune system. (Get sick much?)
- Overweight and obesity: Several recent studies suggest the following: even one night of poor sleep can result in dramatic changes in appetite and food intake, restricting sleep to 5 hours a night for just one week impairs carbohydrate tolerance and insulin sensitivity, sleep deprivation is the single best predictor of overweight and obesity in children, and a brand-new study shows that not getting enough sleep causes fatty liver disease.
- Fuzzy brain: sleep deprivation negatively impacts short-term and working memory, long-term memory and the generation of nerve cells – all of which effects our ability to think clearly and function well.
- Mood and mental health: anyone who has had a few nights of poor sleep can tell you that insomnia is associated with depression. Insufficient sleep shuts down the pre-frontal cortex and can cause or exacerbate a number of psychological conditions, ranging from anxiety to PTSD to depression.
- Systemic inflammation: sleep deprivation causes chronic, low-grade inflammation. And we now know that inflammation is the root of all modern disease.
- Last, but certainly not least, not getting enough sleep reduces your lifespan.
Wow. No wonder I felt so crappy on Monday.
I ask every client I work with about their sleep patterns, whether the goal is performance or weight loss. The vast majority tell me they don’t get what they feel they need. Most of us probably don’t need research to tell us that not getting enough sleep makes us less than our best. But it sure does pound home the point that the consequences of poor sleep isn’t just feeling tired.
Bottom line? Set the DVR and turn out the lights.
P.S Links to the studies and research mentioned here can be found within Chris Kresser’s article HERE