Sleep Disorders

Updated 07 November 2018

5 things that happen to your body when you don’t get enough sleep

Not getting enough sleep every night can have a negative effect on your body.

You snooze, you lose, right? Turns out the old adage is wrong. Missing out on a few Zzzs can have a negative impact on your health. So maximise your sleep with our simple strategies – counting sheep not required…

1. Brain

Bookending a long workday with a gym class and a Netflix marathon can result in you going without sleep for up to 20 hours. For your brain, it’s akin to being over the drunk-driving limit, warns neurologist and sleep expert Dr Guy Leschziner. Get tucked in two hours earlier to hit the suggested minimum of six hours for sleep-induced sobriety.

Read more: This chamomile smoothie will make falling asleep easier than ever

2. Body

Kipping for five hours or less increases your risk of obesity by 15%, according to a US study. Fluctuations in ghrelin and leptin, the hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite, are to blame, says Dr Leschziner. Have air-con in your room? Freeze them out by setting the temperature below 18°C: It triggers “non-shivering thermogenesis” for overnight weight loss.

3. Organs

People who get only five hours of sleep typically have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and can become insulin resistant, according to professor Adrian Williams of The London Sleep Centre. Work to blame? Walk away. No, don’t quit: A study found walking for 30 minutes, five days a week, can prevent and reverse insulin resistance.

Read more: “I slept on a yoga mat for 7 days – here’s what happened to my body”

4. Height

While there are proven ways to increase your levels of human growth hormone marginally (heavy squats, for example), 60 to 70% of your HGH – which is responsible for everything from metabolism to hair growth – is produced during sleep. And a Harvard study linked insufficient sleep to less efficient production. There’s no way around this one, ladies.

5. Skin

Your body also uses sleep to eliminate toxins from the skin, says Dr Guy Meadows, co-founder of The Sleep School in the UK. People who skimp on sleep show signs of premature skin ageing, reports the University Hospitals Case Medical Center in the US. Cleanse, then apply a good-quality moisturiser and sleep on a silk pillowcase to minimise wrinkles.

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Image credit: iStock 


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Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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