In this season of end-of-the-year-issues at work, finals for kids and holiday obligations—not to mention all of the parties—it’s no wonder that most of us aren’t getting enough sleep!   And while it may be tempting to skip some zzz’s to get in some more online shopping, finalizing that report or stopping by that last party, it turns out that missing sleep does more than just make you tired…missing sleep can have lasting impacts on your health. 

Read on to hear WHY getting sleep is important (no matter what time of year!) and WHAT HAPPENS to your body when you DON’T get enough!

Why Sleep is Important

We consulted How Things Work who gives three main reasons:

  1. It gives the body a chance to repair muscles and other tissues, replace aging or dead cells, etc.
  2. It gives the brain a chance to organize and archive memories. Dreams are thought by some to be part of this process.
  3. It lowers our energy consumption, so we need three meals a day rather than four or five. Since we can’t do anything in the dark anyway, we might as well “turn off” and save the energy.

What Happens if You Miss a Night of Sleep

We’ve all pulled an all-nighter or two in our day but it turns out that we should reconsider next time we decide to push through a night without sleep.  The Today Show (and several other sources) cite a Swedish study that indicates that even missing a single night of sleep can mess with your health: “After a restless night people think they can make up for the lost sleep by going to bed early and sleeping in the next day. This certainly helps people feel rested, but a new study finds that just one night of sleep deprivation negatively impacts metabolism and cellular biological clocks. ‘When [participants] had been sleep deprived and it was only one night … their glucose levels were at the level where you would say there is an increased risk of diabetes,’ says Dr. Jonathan Cedernaes, a neuroscientist from Uppsala University in Sweden and an author of the paper in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.”

What Happens if You Consistently Skip Sleep

HealthLine gives a sobering list of 10 consequences of missing shut-eye.  These include:

  1. Increasing your chance of getting sick
  2. Increasing your chances of coronary artery disease
  3. Putting yourself at higher risk for Breast, Colorectal and Prostate Cancers
  4. Impairing your brain function
  5. Impairing your memory
  6. Diminishing your libido
  7. Causing your to gain weight
  8. Increasing your risk of Diabetes
  9. Putting yourself at risk of getting in accidents (auto, job-related, injuries)
  10. Your start looking older sooner (YIKES!)

So How Much Sleep Do We Need?

According to the CDC, “More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, according to a new study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.”  With that many people not getting enough shuteye, it seems like it’s important to clarify here exactly HOW MUCH REST IS ENOUGH. 

The Sleep Foundation has provided a helpful infographic to help us figure this out based on our age, gender and activity level:


Tips on Getting Better Sleep

So how do we get enough rest?  Especially during these crazy holiday months? 

The Mayo Clinic offers these six helpful tips:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule
  2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink: “Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Your discomfort might keep you up.  Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too.”
  3. Create a restful environment: “Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Exposure to light might make it more challenging to fall asleep. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.”
  4. Limit daytime naps
  5. Include physical activity in your daily routine: “Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. Avoid being active too close to bedtime, however. Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too.”
  6. Manage worries: “Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Stress management might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety.”