You’re probably already aware that sleep deprivation can affect your mood, making you grumpy and irritable. You might even know that sleep even a few hours less than the recommended amount can affect your health. But you might not realize how serious, and far-reaching, sleep deprivation can be when it comes to your overall wellbeing. Not convinced? Check out these five surprising ways that missing sleep affects your health.

You’re More Likely to Catch a Cold

According to Johns Hopkins University, not getting enough sleep makes you three times as likely to catch a cold. And when you do catch the sniffles, it’s likely to take you longer to recover. This is due to sleep’s effect on your immune system; more specifically, the production of proteins called cytokines. Cytokines help fight infections and inflammation, giving you better immunity to viruses and helping you recover more quickly when you get sick. This is why your doctor prescribes rest when you’re ill. When you’re sleep-deprived, cytokine production decreases, increasing the likelihood you’ll catch a cold.

You’re More Likely to Eat Junk Food

Ever notice how you get ravenously hungry late at night — and how every greasy burger or gooey slice of pizza you see advertised on television looks delicious, even when you’re still full from dinner? That’s in large part because sleep deprivation messes with your hunger hormones, making you feel hungrier, and reducing your self-control. Not getting enough sleep increases production of the hunger hormone ghrelin, causing you to feel ravenous. It also decreases the production of the appetite control hormone leptin. The end result? You are standing in front of the refrigerator, snacking on all of the high-fat, high-calorie, high-carbohydrate snacks you can find. Not only does this increase the likelihood of weight gain, but also increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, if it’s late at night and you’re craving a snack, head to bed instead. Your waistline will thank you.

You’re Less Likely to Have a Sex Life

‘Not tonight dear, I’m tired’. Do you say this — or hear it — more often than you would like? If so, then it’s time to get more sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is often to blame for lower libido and decreased interest in sex in both sexes, thanks in large part to a lack of energy and tension caused by sleeplessness. If the sleep deprivation is due to sleep apnea, the sexual dry spell may be even worse. In one study, men with sleep apnea were found to have as much as 50 per cent less testosterone than those without the condition. Low testosterone levels can torpedo sex drive, so if you’ve lost interest and can’t sleep, see a doctor.

You’ll Spend More Time Looking for Things

How much time do you spend each day trying to find your misplaced keys, phone, or wallet? Do you routinely forget half your shopping list? Do you just feel like you’re in a fog half the time? No, you aren’t losing your mind. Sleep deprivation is a major contributor to neurological disturbances, lapses in memory, and reduced cognitive function. Everyone can be forgetful sometimes, but if you are spending an inordinate amount of time searching for items and trying to get out of your own way, or taking much longer than necessary to get things done because you’re having trouble completing a thought, it might be time to start getting to bed earlier.

You’re More Likely to Die in an Accident

Not to be dramatic, but sleep deprivation considerably increases your risk of dying in an accident. Not getting enough sleep reduces your reaction time and impairs your judgement, putting you at risk of getting hurt, especially when you are behind the wheel. Every year, there are more than 6,000 fatal car crashes in the U.S. due to drowsy driving, and falling asleep at the wheel is more common than you think. Getting plenty of rest helps ensure you don’t drive when sleepy, and reduces your risk of making decisions that could lead to serious injury or death.

Of course, we can’t overlook the effect that sleep deprivation has on your blood sugar levels and heart, not to mention your mental health. The bottom line is that sleep matters to every aspect of your health and wellbeing, so turn off the television, put down the smartphone, and catch some more Zs tonight to get back on track to good health.

BIO: Sleep Advisor is dedicated to sharing sleep news with their readers to improve health and wellness.

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