There is no denying the importance of sleep, as a good night’s kip can set you up for a positive and productive day. Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our body, along with exercise and a fully balanced, nutritionally complete diet – it is integral to ensuring we stay healthy and happy.
And now hormone doctor Dr Martin Kinsella has revealed how a lack of rest can impact the endocrine system in a number of ways. While a hormonal imbalance may be to blame for lack of sleep, not sleeping can also cause hormones to become imbalanced. Whilst one of two broken or shorter nights’ sleep will leave you feeling tired, irritable and hungry, it’s unlikely to lead to further problems.
But Dr Kinsella has explained exactly what a lack of sleep over a longer period can result in:
1. STRESS LEVELS CAN RISE
Lack of sleep causes cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol is the stress hormone and so chronic levels of elevated cortisol are very bad for the body and will put the body into a catabolic state.
2. MUSCLES CAN BREAK DOWN
Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle tissue, so it’s harder for the body to build muscle when they’re broken down. We also use cortisol to reduce inflammation. So when you have chronically raised cortisol, you could be in an inflammatory state.
3. YOUR MOOD WILL DECREASE
Think about how one night of bad sleep or not enough sleep can make you feel rotten and irritable the next day. Plus it can work both ways, sleep loss can affect your mood, and your mood can affect how much and how well you sleep.
4. YOUR LIBIDO WILL DECREASE
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone that your body naturally produces in the adrenal gland and helps produce other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. High levels of cortisol can imbalance the adrenal glands and lessen the amount of topterone that is produced, thus lowering libido.
5. HUNGRY LEVELS MAY INCREASE
Leptin suppresses the appetite and lets your body know when it’s time to stop eating, so when you are sleep deprived you’ll often feel more hungry. When leptin levels are lowered by lack of sleep, ghrelin levels rise and this also makes you feel hungrier as the hormone’s function is to tell the brain that you are hungry.
6. YOU CAN SUFFER HAIR LOSS
A lack of sleep can also affect the thyroid glands, increasing the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), according to Dr Kinsella, which slows the metabolism and can cause an under-active thyroid. An underactive thyroid is where your thyroid gland (a small gland in your neck) does not produce enough hormones. Symptoms of this can include fatigue, feeling cold, hair loss, weight gain, and depression.