Here's How Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Body After Only A Couple Nights, According To Science
For whatever reason (ahem, the riveting new book I couldn't stop thinking about), I could not fall asleep one night last week, even as the clock struck 1 a.m. I'd tried everything — counted sheep, drank a mug of chamomile tea, I even took a melatonin supplement — and nothing seemed to work. The next day, I definitely felt the effects of my tossing and turning. If you know the feeling, you're about to have a new reason to go to bed early tonight: A new study revealed how lack of sleep can affect your body, and yikes, guys. This is weird.
The study, published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, investigated the effects that variations in sleep quality had on the standing balance of 20 volunteers. While you probably know from experience that the occasional sleepless night can leave you feeling groggy and grumpy the next day, not sleeping well for two consecutive nights, as per the study's press release from Warwick University, can actually start to mess with your sense of balance, the researchers found. And BTW, interestingly enough, the participants in this study weren't even older adults who might already be prone to falling and other balance issues; rather, the study says that the volunteers were all in their 20s and 30s.
You might think that balance wouldn't really affect your life much unless you're trying to become a gymnast or something, but the effects can actually be pretty strong. Another study on the connection between sleep and balance, published in the Journal of Agromedicine, tested the effects of sleep loss on farmers. The participants were asked to stand on a pressure-monitored mat on one foot or both feet and with their eyes open or closed — sounds pretty simple, right? Well, the study found that, for the participants who hadn't gotten a proper night's sleep prior to the balance test, their balance was more than seven times worse than those who'd gotten the right amount of shut-eye.
If you want to stay on your feet (get it?), you might want to take a look at how consistent your sleep schedule is overall. "It's a good idea to understand your personal chronotype: essentially, whether you are an early or late riser," says Christopher Lindholst, CEO of MetroNaps. You probably know whether you're an early bird or a night owl, he tells Elite Daily, but an easy way to double-check is to consider what you would do if you went on vacation for three weeks and didn't have anywhere specific to be at a set time.
"Understanding your natural preference should then lead you to make some small changes in your daily schedule, which could have a big impact on your personal productivity and general well-being," Lindholst explains. Besides standard tips like going to bed earlier if you're a morning person, you might even work with your boss to make your schedule more conducive to you personally, says Lindholst. If the first half hour of your day is spent groggy and gulping as much coffee as you can grab anyway, your manager might be understanding enough to let you shift your schedule by an hour or so. "It's likely to make you more effective, and it will also mean a healthier you," Lindholst explains.
If your schedule isn't so flexible, and you're still finding yourself yawning throughout the day, you might be tempted to sleep in as late as possible come Saturday and Sunday. But it's best to avoid this temptation as much as possible, says Dr. Rita Aouad, a sleep medicine specialist and psychiatrist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
"You can make up for lost sleep on weekends by sleeping in, but should you? No," she tells Elite Daily in an email. "You should aim to keep a regular sleep schedule during the week and weekends to prevent a sleep deficit during the week and rebound hypersomnia on the weekends." Confusing your body and falling into a sleep deficit during the week can lead to hormone disruptions, mood issues, appetite fluctuations, and other health issues, Dr. Aouad says.
Moral of the story: Sleep is crucial, and it's part of a balanced lifestyle (sorry).