What Happens When You Don't Sleep

What Happens When You Don't Sleep

There is a trend online that some have dubbed "hustle porn." You know will know it by the phrases they use like "I'll sleep when I'm dead" or "grindin' 24/7" and other related nonsense.

I too fell into this pattern. As an entrepreneur, dad, athlete - there never seems enough time in the day.

But what happens when you don't sleep? What happens when you short circuit the mechanism by which your body repairs and regenerates yourself.

In most science related to nutrition and physical training, there is a ton of debate. On this topic however, there exists as near a consensus as one can get. 

Let's take a look at a few things that happen when you don't sleep.

1. You Get Sick

First and foremost, a lack of sleep compromises your immune system.

Sleep deprivation seems to reduce the cytokines your immune system releases to fight infection and disease.

The cruel irony is that being sick makes good quality sleep even harder, creating a vicious cycle that prolongs infection.

2. Increased Chance of Coronary Heart Disease

Guess what? Your heart needs you to get enough shut eye too.

Studies show that people who don't get enough sleep are at a far greater risk of heart disease and other related issues.

3. Cancer Risk Goes Up

Yeah, I know, this keeps getting worse.

Unfortunately, prolonged lack of quality sleep also increases the risk for certain cancers.

Specifically, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer. Even worse news is that shift workers seem to be at an acute risk.

4. Your Brain Doesn't Work Quite Right

Getting enough sleep is critical for cognitive function.

Studies have found that sleep deprivation makes brain cells unable to communicate as effectively as possible.

Cognitively difficult tasks become exponentially more difficult when the subjects have not had enough Zzz's.

5. Mental Health and Emotions Suffer

Have you ever had a few nights of poor sleep in a row, only to find yourself snapping at your kids or losing it on a loved one over something incredibly small?

I think we've all been there to some degree.

Our mental health and quality sleep are closely related.

If you are prone to things like depression or more severe mental illness, sleep deprivation is especially dangerous.

6. Your Discipline and Self-Control Go Out The Window

If you're having a hard time sticking to a diet or fitness plan, you may want to examine your sleep habits.

When you don't get enough sleep, you are more likely to reach for that piece of cake or have a night of binge-drinking. 

The bottom-line factoid here is that your self-control is linked to good quality sleep and is the first place you should look if you keep derailing your progress on a new plan.

7. Libido Diminishes

This just keeps getting worse doesn't it? The one thing worth staying up for just doesn't seem as alluring if you haven't had your sleep.

The mechanism at work here is that testosterone drops when you spend less time in dreamland.

For the astute reader you probably know the other problems with decreased testosterone, including less muscle mass and more body fat.

Speaking of body fat...

8. You Get Fatter

You're probably saying to yourself, "Damn it, this can't get any worse."

You bet it can.

Not getting enough shut eye will have a direct effect on the ol' waistline as well.

Participants in the above linked study who slept less than 5 hours per night were not only more likely to gain weight, but also more likely to become obese.

9. You Are More Likely To Get Diabetes

Hey, while we're getting fatter, let's throw in some of the diabetes while we're at it, shall we?

Lack of sleep has been shown to be an often overlooked but significant risk factor in Type 2 diabetes.

Couple that with some of the other factors I mentioned such as less self-control, increased fat retention and hormones getting out of whack, and you have a recipe for disaster.

10. You're More Likely To Get Injured

Your body repairs itself when you are sleeping. 

Not getting enough sleep short circuits this function and makes you more likely to get injured in the gym or on the field.

It All Starts With Good Sleep

In my own life lately, I've been prioritizing sleep and recovery. I've written about some of my strategies and hacks for great sleep hygiene as well.

It's made a world of difference and lead me to the following realization.

All health and wellness is downstream from quality sleep.

If you aren't taking the steps to create a great sleeping environment, and if you aren't prioritizing your sleep, you are not running optimally. Point blank, period.

Now you know what happens when you don't sleep, what will happen when you start making this a heavy focus and getting it right?


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