Are you sleeping enough or are you sleep deprived? How can you tell? According to the National Heart and Lung association this is sleep deprivation:
It is very common to shirk sleep when there are important things to do, but that's very unhealthy for many reasons. Sleep is important, and disregarding it can harm your body in many ways. Not everyone gets the recommended amount of sleep each night, or needs the same amount, but without it your body can not run at optimal levels.
Are you in Debt to your sleep?
A misconception about sleep is that you can make up the time. Unfortunately, that's not true. Cutting your sleep back by even one hour a night creates a sleep debt that begins to snowball. Although you may not notice the effects immediately, over time if can affect your daily activities.
Weakened immune systems
Your brain does not "shut down" when you sleep. In fact, sleep is an active process that releases hormones such as growth hormones and prolactin-- which regulate and repair the immune system. Lack of sleep reduces the chances of this.
When you sleep, your body also releases protein called cytokines, which fight off infection and viruses. Cytokines are also needed to help regulate deep sleep. Without sleep, you put yourself at risk for illness and infection because of the reduced protein and other infection-fighting cells. 
Lack of sleep can Make you Grouchy
You may not notice your demeanor has changed, but your family and friends will be able to tell you haven't had enough sleep. The lack of sleep can make you grouchy and things that normally don't bother you can try your patience and cause irritability.
Did I say that?
Sleep deprivation does not allow you to think to your full capacity. Have you ever said something and can't remember saying it? Perhaps you did something and can't remember doing it? A lack of sleep reduces your chances to think clearly, make sound decisions and causes you to make more errors in your normal activities.
During a study in 1997, three sleep restricted groups were compared to the control group who spent nine hours in bed.
Reducing your sleep by as little as one and a half hours a night is enough to reduce your day time alertness by 32%. Though you can function on that amount of sleep, it can still result in a poor quality of life.
Sleep affects hormones
The amount of sleep you get each night makes a difference in the way your metabolism works. In fact, your metabolism needs sleep to work properly for weight loss. For those who exercise to lose weight, the lack of sleep is counterproductive, because you're metabolism is being affected.
Excessive sleep does not necessarily mean you will lose more weight, but sleep deprivation does affect your leptin, and ghrelin hormones. In layman's terms, ghrelin tells your body when to eat and when it's sleep deprived. On the other hand, leptin tells you to stop eating, but when you are sleep deprived you have less leptin. In this case, you have more ghrelin than leptin, which leads to weight gain.
***Watch Dr. Hu in The Forum: Harvard School of Public Health-- Fighting the Clock for more on sleep deprivation.
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Lisa M. White
Copyright ©2011 CPT Lisa M. White™. All rights reserved.