Some of us think sleep is a luxury we can afford to live without, because there's too much to do – "we'll sleep when we're dead". Yet, like food and water, sleep is a biological need we must fulfil to survive. If we don't, there are consequences to our bodies.
As the world marks World Sleep Day on Friday to call attention to the many issues related to sleep problems, we highlight five issues associated with a lack of good and consistent sleep – a recommended seven to eight hours per night for adults.
1. Lower sex drive
Lack of sleep may be the number-one culprit for your drop in sexual desire. Sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and and little interest in sex. That may be because lack of sleep can lead to low energy, fatigue and sleepiness.
2. Bad skin
Not only does lack of sleep lead to dark circles under your eyes, your skin can eventually sag. This is caused by cortisol, a stress hormone released when you don't get enough sleep. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen — the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.
3. Weight gain
If your waistline is expanding, it may not just be because of the food you eat. Sleep duration affects hormones that regulate hunger and appetite, leading you to be hungrier if you've slept less than you should. Lack of sleep has been shown to increase snacking, the number of meals eaten per day, and the preference for energy-dense foods.
Research suggests that nerve connections that make our memories are strengthened during sleep, so when we haven't had enough sleep, we are likely to forget things often, add to that the inability to properly focus and concentrate.
Drowsiness caused by a lack of sleep can slow down reaction time as much as driving drunk. Consequently, driving can become more erratic, leaving one more vulnerable to making mistakes on the road. Driver fatigue is one of the greatest challenges facing truck drivers in South Africa, according to Road Ahead, leading to an unnecessary number of accidents on the road.