This Is What Staying Up Super Late Does to Your Body
Don't let sleep deprivation catch up with you.
Sure, we’d all love to get the holy grail of eight hours of deep, restful sleep every single night. But as anyone with a job and/or kids knows all too well, real life always tends to get in the way of achieving that dream. Unfortunately, though, burning the midnight oil to finish a work project or tidy up the house does more than just make you groggy the next morning. Staying up late can have a major impact on your health, too. Need more incentive to call it an early night? Read on to discover the harmful side effects of staying up too late, depriving yourself of some much-needed rest.
You eat more.
Though human beings are supposed to eat for survival, most of the time we eat because, quite frankly, food is just too delicious to pass up. And unfortunately for those of us who are up late at night, it’s even harder to tune out those impulsive eating cues. In fact, a 2016 analysis of 17 studies published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who didn’t get a full night’s rest ate an average of 385 more calories the following day than those who got their eight hours.
And you gain weight.
The extra calories you consume due to a lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain and obesity in the long term. According to a 2006 study of 68,000 women published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, those who got five hours of sleep or less per night gained 2.5 more pounds over the 16-year study period than women who slept soundly every night.
“Usual sleep times of less than seven hours are associated with a substantial increase in the risk of major weight gain and incident obesity,” the study authors noted, hypothesizing a link between those late nights and changes in the body’s metabolic activity.
Your risk of developing diabetes increases.
When your body is running on little sleep, it compensates by excreting high levels of stress hormones like cortisol to keep you alert. According to a 2010 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, this can make you less sensitive to the effects of insulin—or, in other words, it can cause your body to convert the glucose in your bloodstream to energy less efficiently. Over time, this can lead to a buildup of glucose in your bloodstream, thereby increasing your risk of diabetes.
You put your heart health on the line.
Every organ in the body needs sleep to function, the heart included. The National Sleep Foundation notes that not getting adequate periods of rest can activate chemicals that “keep the body from achieving extended periods in which heart rate and blood pressure are lowered.”
And when researchers conducted a 2010 meta-analysis on sleep deprivation and heart health published in the journal Current Cardiology Reviews, they concluded that staying up too late and getting five hours of sleep or less is directly correlated with an increased risk of hypertension and coronary heart disease.
Your memory weakens.
When you stay up late and your brain is running on fumes, it has trouble keeping track of the information it’s receiving. In 2017, when researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles tested the effect of sleepiness on cognitive function, they found that when subjects were deprived of sleep, their neurons had trouble communicating. These misfiring neurons translated into a reduced ability to categorize images and therefore recall memories.
“We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity,” lead study author Dr. Yuval Nir explained in a press release. “The neurons responded slowly, fired more weakly, and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual.”
You become more susceptible to Alzheimer’s.
When a person develops Alzheimer’s, a protein known as amyloid-beta builds up in their brain and disrupts cell function. Just one night of staying up late can significantly increase levels of amyloid-beta in the brain, meaning chronic sleep deprivation can be seriously detrimental to your cognitive function over time.
Your immune system weakens.
Whether it’s flu season or there’s a virus making its way around your office, your immune system is the first—and best—line of defense against any kinds of bugs. However, when your body doesn’t get enough sleep because you’ve stayed up all night, your immune system becomes compromised. That’s because the systems involved in circulating white blood cells become impaired when you haven’t gotten enough rest, and these white blood cells are what help your body ward off infection and disease.
One 2017 study published in the journal Sleep analyzed the effects of sleep deprivation on 11 pairs of identical twins and found that the sleep-deprived twins had weaker immune systems.
You lose your libido.
Men and women alike suffer from a lack of sex drive when they stay up too late. For men, it has everything to do with testosterone: This hormone regulates both energy and desire, and levels are significantly decreased when sleep is lacking. For women, it’s all about how they feel: Late nights result in depleted energy levels and increased irritability, the combination of which is unlikely to put anyone in the mood.
Your balance becomes impaired.
According to a 2018 study published in the journal Scientific Reports, not getting enough sleep can result in hindered balance. Your central nervous system (CNS) needs adequate rest to function properly, and without it, the CNS isn’t capable of syncing up with other essential physiological processes, like the visual system. As a result, you’re more likely to find yourself having a potentially serious stumble when you stay up late.
Your reflexes weaken.
Should you ever encounter a life-threatening situation where you have to act fast, you’re definitely going to wish you hadn’t stayed up late the night before. A 2000 study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Studies found that after 17 hours without rest, people functioned as though they had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 percent. After 20 to 25 hours without sleep, that number rose to 0.1 percent, well over the legal driving limit in the United States.
Your skin ages more rapidly.
Staying up late doesn’t just affect your body on the inside. According to a 2007 study published in the journal Sleep, women who didn’t get enough sleep showed increased signs of aging skin, including reduced elasticity, more fine lines, and a reduced ability to heal from sunburns.
As Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, explained to Allure, our cortisol levels naturally decrease when we sleep. Since this hormone helps the skin regenerate and repair, losing sleep can significantly contribute to signs of aging in your skin, including “inflammation along with skin-barrier dysfunction, leading to lack of hydration.” And if you’re eager to look more radiant, then check out these 13 Creepy Skin Care Routines That Actually Work.
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