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All statistics and reports, worldwide, point to a sleep epidemic. According to one survey, not a single country’s sleep average is reported to meet or exceed the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Sleep is incredibly important for both our physical and mental health. Continue reading for all the ways a lack of sleep affects our overall health.

Weight Gain and Obesity

Study after study have made clear links between a lack of sleep and excess weight gain. Those who report lower sleep durations typically weigh more than those clocking in the recommended hours of zzz’s each night. In fact, one study found that both children and adults who slept for short periods of time at night had an 89% and 55% chance of becoming obese. Scientists theorize that the link between weight gain and sleep is due to a disruption of hormones, its effect on metabolism, and an increase in daily fatigue that decreases motivation to exercise.

Decreased Cognitive Performance

Proper sleep duration is essential for healthy brain function. Poor sleep can lower cognition, productivity, performance, and concentration. One sleep study found that a lack of sleep can affect the brain similarly to alcohol intoxication. Additionally, if you feel like your creative juices are lacking, it may point to poor sleep habits. REM sleep, which is the deep sleep wherein you experience dreams, is correlated to creative processes. If you aren’t sleeping for a long enough period of time, your brain may be unable to reach REM, and therefore unable to creatively problem solve.

Increased Risk of Mental Health Issues

While more prominent in those with sleeping disorders, such as sleep apnea or insomnia, missing out on precious hours of sleep can worsen mental health issues. The correlation between sleep and mental health is not as straightforward as some of the other health issues connected to a lack of shut eye. Approximately 90% of those diagnosed with depression report poor sleep quality, showing that a lack of sleep doesn’t necessarily lead to depression, but they are definitely two peas in a pod. Alarmingly, one study showed that poor sleep quality was “significantly associated with increased risk for suicide.”

Immune Function and Inflammation

Unfortunately, even a small deviation from the recommended eight hours of sleep a night can lead to impaired immune function. A study that monitored the development of the common cold over the course of two weeks found that those who got less than seven hours of sleep were three times more likely to develop the cold, than those who slept eight hours or more. Additionally, a lack of sleep can trigger inflammation markers and cell damage. For example, people with Crohn’s disease were much more likely to relapse if they lacked proper sleep than those with the disease who slept a healthy amount.

Many people assume that staying up late has little to no effect on their overall health, but the hundreds of studies dedicated to the matter prove otherwise. Whether it be a small disruption or an extended problem, not getting enough shut eye can spell out serious consequences for your wellbeing. When you prioritize your sleep, you’ll be shocked at how much better you feel in no time.