How Does Poor Sleep Affect My Health?

February 9, 2024 · Morgan Jackson

What Does Poor Sleep Do to My Health?

If you haven’t said it, you’ve probably heard it:

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead”.

Typically, it means you or someone you know is planning on going without a full night’s sleep. It might mean a late night, an early morning, or a disrupted sleep pattern. While it’s often an attempt at humor, there’s nothing funny about poor sleep health.

An estimated one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep each night. That’s 84 million people who don’t get the rest they need to function well the next day.

Like eating and breathing, sleep is an essential human need. It helps us improve physical health and generate the energy you need. High-quality sleep does wonders for your body and mind. Just as easily, poor sleep can have negative consequences for your health and well-being.

What is Poor Sleep?

Sleep is a complicated process. While you’re fast asleep, your brain and body are hard at work on important biological and psychological processes. Sleep encourages the body to preserve memories, heal wounds, even stabilize our mood. If the quality, frequency, or longevity of your sleep suffers, the result becomes poor sleep.

Poor sleep refers to any challenge in falling asleep or staying asleep that compromises your health. It could mean:

  • You have difficulty falling asleep at the end of the day.
  • You frequently wake up once you’ve fallen asleep.
  • You wake up too early without the ability to resume sleep.
  • You feel tired or groggy despite a full night of sleep.

Many different factors can cause poor sleep. For example, a non-traditional career can affect your sleep patterns. If you work a night shift or wake extra-early for a commute, your body might have trouble adjusting to a new sleep timeline. Other lifestyle factors, like using your phone before bed or an untimely dose of caffeine, can also cause poor sleep.

Here are a few other causes of poor sleep:

  • Substance use, including alcohol consumption
  • Stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome
  • Medical conditions like hormonal imbalances

Your sleep environment also plays a big role in determining the quality of your sleep. Make sure your bedroom’s temperature, lighting, and noise are all kept to a minimum during evening hours. Refrain from using your phone or other electronic devices in your bed, particularly in the hour before you plan on going to sleep.

It’s important to note that despite your best efforts, you might experience the occasional poor night of sleep. In many cases, that’s normal. However, recurring episodes of poor sleep will quickly impact your health.

How Does Poor Sleep Affect My Health?

Frequent poor sleep can significantly affect various aspects of your health, leading to physical fatigue, cognitive impairment, mood disorders, weakened immune system, and even an increased risk for chronic diseases. Poor sleep can also compromise your cardiovascular health, weight management, and physical stamina.

1. Impaired Cardiovascular Health

Sleep is one of the American Heart Association’s “Essential 8” measures for improving cardiovascular health. Without your 7-9 hours of sleep per night, adults are at an increased risk of developing hypertension, stroke, and heart diseases.

During the deeper stages of sleep, our heart rate and blood pressure drop to allow the cardiovascular system to recover and rejuvenate. However, with disrupted or inadequate sleep, this healing process is impeded. Also, sleep deprivation can lead to higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation, possibly leading to heart disease.

2. Compromise Brain Functionality

Sleep plays a significant role in cognitive processes like memory, concentration, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. Chronic poor sleep can impair your brain functionality, including your ability to reason. Studies have found that sleep deprivation adversely affects different types of cognitive performance.

Sleep is not just a period of rest for your body; it also affects your brain. It consolidates memories, processing experiences from the day into long-term memories. Inadequate sleep can lead to issues with memory consolidation and recall.

Poor sleep can also affect concentration, making it difficult to focus on tasks. This can lead to decreased productivity and additional mistakes. These mistakes can be particularly dangerous when you’re driving. In a single year alone, “drowsy driving” was responsible for more than 650 deaths.

3. Weakened Immune System

Your immune system releases proteins called cytokines during sleep, some of which promote sleep regulation. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of protective cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies, making you more susceptible to illnesses.

Chronic sleep deprivation can also increase your risk for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer.

4. Weight Gain

Did you know that people who sleep less than six hours a night tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI)? Sleep plays an intricate role in regulating hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin, which control feelings of hunger and fullness.

Lack of sleep disrupts this delicate balance, leading to increased appetite and calorie consumption, which can ultimately lead to obesity. It also increases your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

How Can I Overcome the Effects of Poor Sleep?

Poor sleep doesn't just make you groggy and grumpy in the morning; it affects several more severe aspects of your health and sleep hygiene. The effects of poor sleep can be more profound than most of us realize, impacting our cognitive abilities, emotional balance, immune function, and overall quality of life.

Here’s the good news: poor sleep isn’t a life sentence.

With a few intentional lifestyle changes, you can overcome the effects of poor sleep and embrace restorative rest. Here are a few strategies to get you started:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Use sleep-tracking apps to record changes in your slumber.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Write in a sleep journal to document any changes to your sleep patterns.
  • Prioritize high-quality sleep with the right mattress.

That last suggestion is criminally underrated. A high-quality mattress, one that appropriately supports your back, limbs, and neck, is one of your biggest advocates for a well-deserved night’s rest. Unfortunately, buying a mattress isn’t always an easy process. You have to contend with different prices, mattress features, finance options, and sleep terminology you might be unfamiliar with.

At Mattress Warehouse, we’ve worked hard to take the guesswork out of the mattress-buying process. We call it bedMATCH: a patented sleep diagnostic program that pairs you with mattress options that best accommodate your sleep style.

Take our five-minute bedMATCH sleep quiz and answer a few questions about your height, weight, body type, and other metrics to get started.