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Welcome to your nightmare: How bad sleep mucks you up

Author: The Simple Bit

Category: Science

We all know that we feel meh after a bad night’s sleep. But what is it actually DOING to us?

The simple bits:

  • 1 in 10 Aussies suffer from a sleep disorder of some kind
  • Anxiety and depression is more than twice as high in people with sleep disorders
  • Sleep disruption can affect our neurotransmitters and wreak havoc on our brain
  • Lack of sleep may make us eat more (and worse)

As the noted documentary Fight Club points out, bad sleep or no sleep is not a bunch of fun. 

We’ve all been there. Not in a dingy basement Fight Club, but in that not-really-asleep-not-really-awake-oh-lord-make-it-stop state. And we’re not alone. 1 in 10 Aussies suffer from a sleep disorder of some kind, according to data from the Medibank Better Health Index. 

A late night here and there isn’t an issue, but a sustained period of shoddy sleep can really knock you sideways — both mentally and physically.

So – what does it actually DO to us?

Send in the Anxiety

Medibank’s data shows that the incidence of anxiety and depression is more than twice as high in people suffering from sleep disorders, and stress is nearly twice as high as well. 

So why is this? According to analysis by Harvard Medical School, poor sleep can affect our neurotransmitters and this can mess with the brain and impact emotional regulation. Ever noticed you’re more emotional when you’re tired? Well, it’s science. 

Weighty issues

More bad news. People affected by sleep disorders have a higher BMI than the general population. So why is that? One cause might be a lack of motivation. Unsurprisingly, people with sleep disorders were also found to be less likely to exercise. Who hasn’t hit the snooze button before a gym session after a crappy night’s sleep? Hell, we did it today.  

And then there’s the whole appetite thing. Ever wanted to smash donut after donut, Homer-style after a rough night? It’s not you, it’s science. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep could interfere with the hormones that control hunger, making us hungry and making us crave foods high in sugar and fat the day after a rough sleep.

 

Ever wanted to smash donut after donut, Homer-style after a rough night? It’s not you, it’s science.

 

Hmmm…that’s not good

Ok there’s more. And it’s worse than feeling a little flat. Sleep deprivation has been shown to be a potential risk factor in a number of chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. For reals.

A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who slept less than six hours a night were like…twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack than those who slept for six to eight hours. 

And another study by Mayo Clinic found that reducing the sleep duration of its participants for 16 days in a row resulted in substantially higher blood pressure at night. 

So sleep is serious business. Sometimes the circumstances that rob us of sleep are out of our control (work, new baby, travel). But if you can help it, it might be worth working on your sleep game. 

Your brain, stomach and heart might just thank you.