Here's what sleeping less than 7 hours per night does to your body and brain
A good night's sleep can do you wonders, but many people don't prioritise their shut-eye - while others don't have the luxury of maintaining a healthy sleeping pattern. Often, stress from your personal and work life can affect how much sleep you get, while awkward hours and long shifts can prevent you from getting to bed when you need to.
According to a study undertaken by the CDC in 2016, around a third of Americans get less than seven hours sleep, with more than a third of them describing the quality of their sleep as "poor". It's a widespread phenomenon, with even Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently admitting that he's been working 120-hour work weeks. "It's not been great, actually," he told the Times. "I've had friends come by who are really concerned."
While there are some people who can justify that they can make up the sleep later, or even survive on low sleep, not getting enough can have some serious consequences for your health. There are those that can get by on only a few hours, but it's incredibly rare. In fact, the vast majority of people need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to be fully-refreshed, and dropping below seven is rarely a good idea.
Across various studies, sleep deprivation has been linked to the increased risk of cancer, most notably colon and breast cancers. Chronic skin problems have also been linked to poor sleep, with researchers from the University of Wisconsin finding that skin doesn't heal properly from damage when you're extremely tired. Their study found that various mood and sleep disorders are linked to chronic skin problems, with damage from the sun or other things not repairing as it normally should.
There are secondary factors through which sleep deprivation can negatively affect your mental wellbeing too. A study by Nature Communications revealed that sleep loss can cause social withdrawal. This leads to isolation and loneliness, which are factors in causing bad sleep patterns - only feeding back into this cycle.
Whether you're a student or a working adult, lacking sleep can seriously affect your engagement with new lessons and processes. One study found that delaying school start times for middle-school kids was enough to significantly increase their test scores.
Meanwhile, studies have found that adults' short-term memory is affected by sleep deprivation, with new skills or the memory of learned words being far harder to remember in sleep-deprived states. And when you keep this up for long periods, especially in old age, it can lead to structural changes in the brain associated with impaired long-term memory. Basically, if you sleep more, odds are your memory is going to be better.
Blood pressure rises with the lack of sleep, which leads to an increase in heart disease risk, while being tired will ultimately drain your sex drive. Several studies have found that sleep acts as a sort of cleansing process for the brain, removing a beta-amyloid protein that can build up - a protein that is strongly linked with Alzheimer's disease.
The bottom line is, get more sleep - and your body will thank you.