Not getting enough sleep at night has universal detrimental effects on people. In addition to daytime fatigue and impaired mental performance, sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, exacerbates symptoms of anxiety or depression, and increases one’s risk for serious health conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.
For a lot of women, though, sleeping poorly is unavoidable. Hormones play a huge part in why this is—specifically, the hormones that govern a woman’s menstrual cycle can cause changes in sleep patterns or increase the likelihood of developing sleep orders such as insomnia. In fact, studies show that women are 40% more likely to develop it than men. Other barriers to getting proper sleep include stress, mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, physical disorders such as sleep apnea or urinary problems, or lifestyle-related factors such as working too hard.
It’s therefore important to know what the consequences of not getting the rest you need at night are so that you can take the necessary steps to attenuate the factors that prevent you from getting proper sleep. Here are some of them:
Poor Sleep Can Lead to Unhealthy Weight Gain
When your body is deprived of sleep, its regulation of ghrelin and leptin—hormones that regulate hunger and the feeling of fullness, respectively—is affected. This signals to the body that it needs to consume more calories. The problem is that the comfort foods that most people tend to reach for when they’re hungry are also usually high in sugar, sodium, and fat. Add the fact that the person’s metabolism also slows down when they’re short on sleep, and the result is unwanted weight gain. If you feel that temporary lack of sleep is putting your body’s hormone balance out of whack, it would be best to pay close attention to what you eat and drink in the meantime. If possible, stick to healthy snacks such as nuts, seeds, or sugar-free granola and avoid foods that are rich in salt and saturated fats. You may also want to switch regular sugar out for zero-calorie sweetener if you’re the type of person who can’t drink their coffee or tea black.
Poor Sleep Can Affect Your Cognition and Concentration
Numerous studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to diminished alertness, impaired judgment, decreased levels of concentration, and reduced cognition. Since this can essentially lower a person’s level of focus and attention, their ability to accomplish tasks that require mental action and reasoning is also affected. And in an era when women are experiencing longer working hours, this can have a tremendous impact on their capacity to perform optimally. This can even increase a woman’s risk of injury to herself and to others, especially for individuals who work in hazardous environments or professions. Getting a good night’s sleep is also crucial if you’re driving long distances, as it will help you avoid highway hypnosis – a state more common in tired drivers.
It is thus very important to get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Consider taking the necessary steps to develop proper sleep hygiene, which usually calls for developing bedtime routines that prep your body to sleep. These can include taking a warm and comforting bath before bedtime, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. You can also buy comfortable womens sleepwear that can make falling asleep easier.
Poor Sleep Changes Your Appearance
Yes, beauty sleep really is a thing. Numerous studies have shown that getting too little sleep can result in drastic changes to your appearance—and dark circles around the eyes are only the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to replenishing energy, sleep is when your body regenerates itself, eliminating dead blood and skin cells and replacing them with the healthy ones that give you that telltale youthful glow. Sleep also lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, which is the main culprit of free-radical damage to the skin and other systems. Finally, sleep is when your body produces the most collagen, which helps keep your skin plump and bouncy, thus keeping sagging and wrinkles at bay.
So what are the changes that you can expect if you don’t sleep enough at night? Dark circles are a given, which can give you a tired, haunted look. Sleep deprivation can also lead to imbalances in the skin, causing it to become dehydrated and sallow-looking. It can also exacerbate certain skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. Over time, you’ll find that making a habit of sleeping poorly will have irreversible effects. Age lines will start to form around your eyes and mouth much earlier than expected, and you may notice blemishes and other forms of discoloration more.
If the occasional late night can’t be avoided, you can still easily correct or prevent any drastic changes to your skin by giving it a hydration boost. Make an effort to drink plenty of water if you’re going to be staying up. You can also try cutting down on your caffeine intake if it’s a work-related all-nighter, or stopping early if it’s one that involves going out with your friends. It’s also a good idea to keep to your usual skincare routine and make sure that your skin is well-moisturized to keep the effects of sleep deprivation from wreaking havoc on it.
Sleeplessness is unavoidable sometimes. Fortunately, there’s a lot that you can do to keep it under control. Consider keeping to a nightly routine that gets you in bed at a consistent time, wearing more comfortable clothes, optimizing your sleeping position, or taking melatonin supplements that can help you drift off to dreamland much faster. And for those nights when you absolutely need to pull that all-nighter? Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself adequately by drinking plenty of water and staying away from junk food.