We all know sleep is good for us, but most of us struggle to make it a priority. This may be tolerable for a few days, but here is what happens to your body over the long-term when you don't get enough sleep:

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Chronic pain is a common cause of sleep-related problems.
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Chronic Pain and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle

1. Increased risk of type 2 diabetes

Sleep deprivation is associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.1 For example, women who sleep less than 5 hours per night are more likely to develop diabetes symptoms than women who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. Additionally, after only 4 days of little sleep your insulin sensitivity dramatically decreases.

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2. Elevated blood pressure

Sleep deprivation is closely linked with an increase in blood pressure. For people who already have high blood pressure, even one night of no sleep can lead to elevated blood pressure the following day.

3. Weight gain

Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain and obesity. One reason why this happens is that sleep deprivation increases the production of a biochemical called ghrelin.

See A Healthy Weight for a Healthy Back

Grehlin functions as an appetite stimulant, so the less you sleep the more likely you are to feel hungry. Sleep deprivation also reduces the production of the hormone leptin; which signals to your brain that you have had enough to eat. As your leptin goes down, you will constantly crave foods that are high in carbohydrates.

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4. Increased risk of cardiovascular problems

A lack of sleep is one of a number of factors that can result in cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks.2 For example, in healthy individuals sleep deprivation increases inflammation that is associated with the future development of cardiovascular disease.

See Addressing Pain and Medical Problems Disrupting Sleep

5. Short and long-term memory problems

Sleep deprivation leads to issues with both your short and long-term memory. This is because the various stages of sleep are important to supporting and fostering nerve connections in the brain. These nerve connections are important for learning and memory.

6. Difficulty with concentration

The link between sleep deprivation and problems with concentration is well established; as the sleep-deprived brain has to work harder to complete the same tasks when compared to a non-sleep deprived brain. Sleep deprivation also makes you less able to focus and concentrate on a task (in addition to making it harder to learn and remember).

7. Increased stress

After a good night’s sleep, you are more likely to feel optimistic, motivated, and happy. After a night spent tossing and turning, you are more likely to feel irritable, short tempered, sad, and stressed.

See How Does Stress Cause Back Pain?

Longer-term sleep disruption may also increase your risk of developing depression or anxiety.

See Depression Causes

The good news is that even if you haven't been making sleep a priority, you can start right away. Go ahead and set aside 8 hours for sleep tonight; you may be saving yourself from major health issues down the road.

Learn more:

Psychological Techniques, Sleep Environment, and Better Sleep

Using Medication to Manage Pain and Reduce Sleep Problems

References:

  1. Touma, C. and Pannain, S. (2001). Does lack of sleep cause diabetes? Several line of evidence indicate that chronic lack of sleep may contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 78, 549-558.
  2. Nagai, M., Hoshide, S., & Kario, K. (2010). Sleep duration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease – review of recent literature. Current Cardiology Review, 6, 54-61.