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The first yawn kind of sneaks up on you. Then you might notice your eyelids feel heavy and you’re having a tough time concentrating on the work in front of you. As the day drags on, you might even feel like trading your workout at the gym for a couple hours of TV on the couch. Sooner or later, you realize that sleep deprivation is taking a toll on your mind and your body.

Getting a good night’s rest can help keep you physically healthy and ensure you’re feeling your best. But not getting enough sleep can compromise the way you feel mentally as well as physically. The effects of sleep deprivation can become a serious health issue for some people. We’ll look at what lack of sleep can do to your mind and body, and offer some simple tips for getting your best sleep.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

At one time or another, many people are affected by sleep deprivation. It could be a new baby keeping parents up each night, or a work project that has you burning the midnight oil, then getting up early the next morning for a breakfast meeting. However it happens, sleep deprivation is characterized by a consistent lack of sleep, which means getting fewer than seven hours of shut eye a night on a regular basis.

Some people who feel the effects of sleep deprivation could suffer from an undiagnosed sleep disorder. But for many of us, not getting enough rest is a result of us not making it a priority or understanding how important sleep is when it comes to keeping ourselves physically healthy.

The bottom line is that our bodies require a certain amount of sleep for us to function at our best. While we are sleeping, our bodies perform all kinds of repair on our internal organs and our muscles. Sleep also plays a critical role in maintaining the memory center in our brains, helping us retain what we’ve learned and things we’ve seen so we can access that information again. It also helps restore the chemical balance in our bodies.

When we don’t get the sleep we need, it shows. Signs of sleep deprivation include irritability, feeling tired in the daytime, forgetfulness, clumsiness and a lower sex drive.

Your Immune System is Affected

Could sleep deprivation actually make you sick? The short answer is yes. Studies have shown that when you don’t get enough rest, your body is more susceptible to any viruses you might be exposed to, making it harder to fight off everything from the common cold to infections. This is because while you sleep, your body is producing infection-fighting substances like cytokines. Cytokines not only regulate sleep and your immune system, they give your body more energy and help it defend against illnesses. Not getting enough sleep prevents your body from building up these cytokines. Without having enough of these, it might take your body longer to recover from illness.

Weight Fluctuation

Running short on sleep could be a precursor to packing on the pounds. Sleep deprivation has been shown to be a risk factor for becoming overweight. The amount of sleep you get affects your body’s levels of ghrelin, an appetite stimulant, and leptin, which sends your brain the signal that you’ve had enough to eat. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body makes less leptin and ramps up production of ghrelin. Adding to this dilemma is sleep deprivation can leave you feeling sluggish and too tired to exercise. If you get locked into a pattern of reduced physical activity and an increasing appetite, weight gain is likely to follow.

Cognitive Performance

Getting a good night’s sleep is so important for brain function. Think of it like a deep-cleaning for your mind, where all the clutter can be tidied up, leaving you fresh and ready for a new day. When we sleep, pathways are forged between neurons in our brain. This allows us to retain new information and helps keep us mentally sharp. But a sleep-deprived brain cannot do this. When our brain is tired, we might not be able to concentrate on our work or follow along with conversations. We might feel like we’re in a fog. This makes it difficult to complete even our regular tasks let alone focus enough to learn new things.

How to Prevent Sleep Deprivation

Actions you take during the day will impact how well you are able to sleep at night. If you’re trying to keep sleep deprivation at bay, make sure you are paying attention to your schedule. Waking up and going to bed on a consistent schedule each day will help. So will sticking to this on the weekends when you might be tempted to sleep in. Screen time can also take a toll on your ability to get to sleep. Try limiting your exposure to electronics and blue light for at least a half an hour before you go to bed each night. Sipping caffeinated beverages too late in the day can keep you up, too. You’ll want to stop drinking coffee, sodas and energy drinks by mid-afternoon. Lastly, limit naps to short, 20-minute windows or don’t take any at all. Too much sleep during the day can rob you of the rest you need at night. If you occasionally have trouble falling asleep, try a supplement with natural ingredients like Nutrilite Sleep Health. The proprietary blend of valerian, hops and lemon balm is designed to help you relax so you can fall asleep. * Getting enough sleep each night is so vitally important to our mental and physical health that we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to safeguard our rest. Sticking to a good sleep schedule, limiting electronics before bed and skipping daytime naps can help keep sleep deprivation from having mental and physical impacts on our lives. Sleep is something we spend a third of our lives doing, and we owe it to ourselves to do it well.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.