Answer this question: when was the last time you got a good night’s sleep? Not sure? Would you be surprised to know that many Americans exist in a state of chronic sleep deprivation?
According to Dr. Priyanka Yadav, a sleep medicine specialist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center, “An estimated one-third of Americans are sleep-deprived in some way, which is an issue because a lot of important things happen as we sleep.”
Sleep deprivation may be small at first. You skip a REM cycle or two, or miss an hour of sleep here or there. Over time, the number of minutes and hours becomes more pronounced. And don’t even get us started on the quality of that sleep. We’ve all had those mornings where we wake up after a supposed seven or eight hours of sleep, but feel just as tired as we did when we went to bed!
We typically think of the consequences of sleep deprivation as being purely energy-related. That is, a bad case of head fog and relentless afternoon yawn sessions. It’s no secret to doctors and obesity researchers that the number of hours we sleep each night plays a powerful role in our ability to control food intake and maintaining a healthy weight.
Who makes good choices when they’re sleep deprived? No one. While you may not count yourself among the chronically sleep deprived (after all, you don’t look or feel like a member of the Walking Dead), even slight sleep deprivation can take a toll on your emotions – and your waistline. The less you sleep, the more you stress. The more you stress, the more you eat. It’s a vicious, loathsome cycle.
“When you’re sleep-deprived, the frontal cortex of the brain – which controls our ability to plan, problem-solve, and make decisions and naturally blunts the impulse to eat more fatty, carbohydrate-heavy, and caloric foods – is less active,” Dr. Yadav explains.
Think that lack of shuteye is a necessary evil in our go-go-go, 24/7 society? Think again. Too many of the hours we could spend sleeping are wasted on that extra
Netflix episode, or a few “harmless” minutes scrolling through Instagram before bed. If you commit to spending a full 8 hours in bed – without electronics – every night for a week, hopefully you will be well rested come morning.