6 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Start Sleeping 8 Hours
Going without adequate slumber, even for a single day, has an extensive array of consequences. Not only does being tired make you less sharp, it can also affect everything from what you eat for lunch to whether you maybe get into a spat with your spouse. (Seriously.) Thing is, sleep deprivation goes deep, causing a varied range of mental, emotional, and physical problems we often can't see, or just don't notice. And since between 20 and 30 per cent of Australians have some sort of problem with shut-eye, it's a safe bet these siesta-related issues are more commonplace than we think.
To find out exactly what happens when we don't get our recommended eight hours (and conversely, what happens when we do), we reached out to a sleep expert. According to Dr. Carmel Harrington you can expect to see various positive changes once you start spending enough time with the sandman. "People should be aware of how much better they will feel when they start to get quality sleep," she says. Sound good? Read on to discover how sleep benefits your body.
YOU LOSE WEIGHT
Let's kick things off on a positive note, shall we? "One of the first things you notice when you allow your body to get the rest it needs is you are able to diet more successfully," says Dr. Harrington. Not only that, you're also more likely to lose weight without actively trying, simply because you become less hungry. "When we're sleep deprived, we produce more of the hormones that make us hungry than the hormones that makes us feel full," Dr. Harrington explains.
Not only does being tired encourage an increase in appetite, it also sets off cravings for energy-dense snacks and junk food. Think your willpower is strong enough to overcome cravings? Most people can't. "Most studies indicate that when you are sleep deprived you have a higher BMI—people who only get six or seven hours of sleep or less will have a higher BMI than those who get eight hours," says Dr. Harrington. Yikes. The good news is after a long night on the pillow, you're less likely to snack because you won't have that increased hunger.
YOU DON'T GET SICK
If it seems like you're forever being knocked down by germs, a lack of sleep could have something to do with it. "Research has shown that in the short term, if you're sleep deprived, you're more likely to come down with a cold or flu," says Dr. Harrington. This is because when you're tired, the body reduces production of what Dr. Harrington terms "natural killer cells", microscopic good guys that travel around your body mopping up viruses.
YOUR MOODS STABILISE
Without a good night's sleep, we tend to act more from the primitive emotional centre in the brain, making us hypersensitive and moody. "After a bad night's sleep we're crankier, more irritable, and more reactive," says Dr. Harrington. We may even be able to recognise we're acting out of sorts, but might not understand why. "Normally, in a well-slept state, the higher order functions in our brains downregulate the emotional centre, so you're more able to use reason," explains Dr. Harrington. Getting a full eight hours means more stable moods. (And, really, that equates to more fun for everyone.)
YOU BECOME LESS IMPULSIVE
Emotionally, we're also much less likely to act in hasty and instinctive ways when we're well-rested. "Again, this is because we're better able to access our higher order brain functions in a well-slept state, which minimises impulsivity," says Dr. Harrington. The reverse is also true: "We are much, much more impulsive when we're sleep deprived."
YOU MAKE BETTER DECISIONS
The next time you consider staying up to binge watch TV, consider this—a lack of sleep will absolutely make it harder for you to function the next day. "Mentally, when we're tired we don’t think as well, and as a result our decision making becomes poor," says Dr. Harrington. Not ideal conditions for a busy work day. Additionally: "When sleep deprived we don't think things through well, and we also find it challenging to incorporate new information." Basically, not only do decision making skills take a direct hit, your memory can also suffer. P.S. Caffeine won't help—the only true fix is getting a solid night's rest.
YOU GET SMARTER
According to Dr. Harrington, sleep deprivation affects your ability to learn: "When we're chronically tired, we don't remember as well—lack of sleep causes a 40 per cent reduction in memory." Problems occur when we refuse to accept the cost of going without sleep. "People will acknowledge they might be tired the next day but think they can catch up—if they only understood they're actually making themselves slower," says Dr. Harrington.
If you often work or study late and a find a busy mind is what makes it hard to nod off, Dr. Harrington recommends a sleep schedule. "People tend to work right up until the minute before they've decided to go to sleep, and when they try to switch off, they can't." Set aside an hour before bed to downgrade the alert pathways in your brain by putting away your work and switching off all technology. Next: "Have a warm shower, dim the lights, and maybe do a relaxation exercise to encourage your body to produce melatonin."