What Might Happen If You Get Only 6 Hours of Sleep a Night
Maybe you’re swamped at work. Maybe you’re nursing a newborn. Or maybe you just discovered Friday Night Lights on Netflix. While there are a million (perfectly valid) explanations for why you’re not getting the recommended seven to eight hours, here are seven reasons why you might want to start tonight.
You might be slow to react to things
Quick! Think fast! Only you can’t. Studies have shown that people who sleep six hours or less have the same cognitive abilities as someone who stayed up for an entire 48 hours--which is to say, slow…as…molasses. Not only does this affect your short-term memory, it also zaps your ability to focus, which makes simple activities (like finding your keys or even deciding what to eat) much more difficult.
But you might be quick to anger
Another study revealed that a lack of sleep causes the brain's emotional centers to become over 60 percent more reactive. Simply put: This can prevent you from being able to process your emotions and respond appropriately (you know, like an adult).
You might overeat
Ohhhh, the midnight snack. When you’re up past your bedtime, ghrelin (the hormone that tells you when you’re hungry) increases, while leptin (the hormone that signals when you’re full) decreases--turning you, dear friend, into a bottomless pit.
And you might overspend
Remember that one night you charged a month’s worth of groceries on a pair of suede boots that were “ridiculously reduced”? Blame it on sleep deprivation. The prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that’s responsible for impulse control) is seriously impaired when you don’t catch enough zzz’s. What's this mean? Poor judgment and acting without thinking about the consequences.
You might look haggard (now and later)
Beauty sleep is a very real thing. Besides the immediate and obvious effects of a sleepless night like dark circles and a dull complexion, research has shown that chronic sleep deprivation could make your skin age faster. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases cortisol (the stress hormone). In excess amounts, cortisol breaks down collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and plump.
And you'll feel downright crappy, too
A recent study shows that people who sleep fewer than six hours a night are four times more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep seven to nine hours. So if you’re starting to feel under the weather, the best thing you can do to prevent it from getting worse is hit the hay.
But! You might feel on top of the world
Sleep quality does not always come down to “the more, the better.” It also has to do with REM cycles and if you wake up (crankily) in the middle of one. On rare occasions, when you’re strapped for sleep, use this nifty little calculator to figure out the exact time you should go to sleep (maybe even 2:30 a.m.) based on when you need to get up. It’s weird, but it works.