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The Shocking Truth About Sleep Deprivation

Think lack of sleep is no big deal? Here’s how it could be wreaking havoc on everything from your physique to your sex life.

Why Less Sleep Can Equal More Weight
Research has shown that people who habitually sleep fewer than six hours per night are much more likely to gain weight, while those who sleep seven hours are less likely to do so. Why? When you sleep, your body secretes hormones that help control appetite, energy metabolism, and glucose processing. Sleeping too little (or at irregular times) upsets the balance of these hormones. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that poor sleep can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Disruption of cortisol has proven to be a large factor in weight gain, particularly around the midsection. (It also increases blood pressure levels.)

Poor sleep also increases insulin secretion. After just one or two days without adequate levels of sleep, the body is no longer able to properly metabolize glucose. Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose processing and promotes fat storage; higher levels of insulin are associated with weight gain and also increase the risk factors for diabetes considerably.

[See: Is Sleep Deprivation Making You Fat?]

Insufficient sleep is also associated with lower levels of leptin (a hormone that alerts the brain when it has had enough food) and higher levels of ghrelin (a biochemical that stimulates appetite). As a result, poor sleep may lead to food cravings even after you have eaten an adequate number of calories. When you’re tired, you will be more likely to eat unhealthy foods to help satisfy your cravings or give you a quick energy boost.

Sex and the Sleep Deprived
If you still need another reason to get your zzz’s, how about the impact it will have on your sex life? A recent study of college students found that adequate sleep increased sexual desire and physiological desires,” says Paul Loprinzi, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. Adequate sleep and exercise can also increase blood flow to the penis.

NEXT: Do You Get Enough Sleep?

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