If you’re feeling tired, you are NOT alone.
Did you know that we’re getting less sleep than ever? Almost 60 years ago, a survey of more than 1 million people found that most people got 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
By 2000, that number dropped to about 7 hours a night. And now almost 20 years later, sleep experts say we’re sleeping even less – with many of us only 5 to 6 hours a night.
Woah! That’s a big drop in a short period of time.
I guess it’s not surprising that energy drinks are so popular, right? But ‘powering through’ on too little sleep is not a good idea for the long-term health of your body.
The fact is, you don’t have to wait to feel the impact of too little sleep on your hormones. You might be feeling it today!
There are two major hormone ‘pathways’ that take a big hit when you don’t get enough sleep – including hormones that handle things like your sex drive, stress, hunger, and blood sugar … and (ironically enough) even your ability to fall asleep!
It only takes a night or two for them to get out of balance.
One pathway is governed by your pituitary gland and the other is your autonomic nervous system. But they are intertwined, and they have a hand in virtually every function of your body. Keeping your hormones in balance is a huge part of feeling focused, strong, and vital.
Here are a few ways your sleep affects your hormones.
Hunger: When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases two important hormones that affect your appetite. Ghrelin is your hunger hormone, which tells you to eat. Leptin is your ‘I’m full’ hormone, which signals you to stop eating. Having disrupted sleep can throw these out of whack, leading you to feel hungry – and to stay hungry, even when you eat!
On top of that, when you eat your blood sugar levels can spike, causing your body to release insulin (another hormone) to help offset it, followed by a rapid decrease in blood sugar that can make you feel hungry again.
As you can imagine, this can cause round-robin effect, leading to weight gain and a long list of related health problems (e.g. leptin resistance, insulin resistance, metabolic disorders, etc.).
Stress: Lack of sleep can cause stress – and stress can cause lack of sleep! The two go hand-in-hand.
When you’re stressed, your ‘fight or flight’ hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can rise and lower (also affecting your blood sugar and insulin levels, see above), making it hard to sleep or wind down.
Over time, your cortisol levels – which normally rise in the morning to help get you going, and lower at night to help you sleep – can get turned around, throwing your sleep cycle off.
Libido: Being sleep deprived for one week can cut your testosterone levels by as much as 15% (even in women!). This can have a pretty big impact on your sex drive, making you feel less ‘in the mood,’ more often.
All of that adds up to have a pretty big impact on your quality of life.
It can be tempting to think of sleeping as wasted time, but it’s actually the opposite. It’s when your body recovers, restores, and recharges for the coming day, helping you live your best life!
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