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If you’ve ever stayed up later than usual, or woken up too early, you know how it feels to not get enough sleep. You’re a little tired – but nothing a cup of coffee can’t solve, right? Wrong.

That coffee might give you the boost you need to stay awake, but it won’t do much to mitigate the damage that sleep deprivation has on your body itself.

A new study by the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults 18-65 should be getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. Anything less than 7 hours starts negatively affecting your body in a number of ways.

Here are three of the most important areas of your body affected by sleep deprivation:

Hormone Production

Our body uses sleep to help regulate hormone production. Sleep deprivation causes these hormones to become imbalanced, resulting in serious issues. The hormones that tell us when we’re hungry and full (Grhelin and Leptin) are directly affected, causing overeating and weight gain.

When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies increase Cortisol to keep us alert. This Cortisol increase prevents insulin from doing its job – raising the glucose level in our blood. These elevated glucose levels make us more likely to get diabetes.

Growth hormone – responsible for muscle growth and cell repair – also needs sleep for production. When sleep deprivation limits this hormone, it can have negative effects on children and teenagers.

Mental Cognition

Our brain uses sleep to strengthen and form connections between neurons, reinforcing things we’ve learned. Poor sleep reduces the valuable energy your brain needs to do these actions, limiting your ability to retain learned information. Our balance and physical reaction times are also affected, increasing the risk of accidents.  

Sleep deprivation also makes us more impulsive and emotionally reactive. This makes us more irritable and more likely to make decisions without thinking them through. 

Research shows that this lack of emotional control makes it harder to stop focusing on negative thoughts. So if you ever feel like you’ve been in a rut before, sleep (or lack thereof) could be one of the reasons.

Immune System Function

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can also increase your risk of getting sick. During sleep, your immune system produces the proteins and antibodies that our bodies need to fight off infection and disease. When we don’t get enough sleep, the production of these substances is decreased, making you more susceptible to illness.

A weakened immune system also makes it take longer to get over an illness. Experts at the University of Texas explained that the fever response used to fight infection is decreased, “so we may not be waging war on infection as best we can.”

Given these facts, it’s clear that sleep deprivation has a serious effect on our bodies. By not prioritizing sleep, we’re directly impairing our body’s ability to function, think, and protect itself.

Fortunately, by making sleep an important part of our daily routine, we can help prevent these effects. The Sleep Foundation recommends scheduling sleep like any other activity. Instead of just going to bed when the rest of your day is complete, view it as the important task that it is.

Thank you for reading! Knowledge is power, and learning is key to living a better life.

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