A full night’s rest is often thought of as a luxury in today’s busy times. According to a recent report from Gallup, 42% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night.
Although the potential health consequences of not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep a night are well known, many of us continue trading in our sleep for more waking hours.
A 46-year-old woman named Sarah Chalmers decided to participate in a sleep deprivation study conducted by the Sleep School and document it for the Daily Mail.
On the first night, Chalmers was ordered to sleep for only four hours. Upon waking up, she didn’t feel as tired as she had expected. Soon thereafter, however, Chalmers began feeling the effects. She wrote:
“As the day wore on, however, I became forgetful, failing to return a phone call as promised and losing my train of thought in conversations.
“By three in the afternoon, I experienced an energy dip like the one you feel with a hangover. But I got through it and I felt buoyed up by my ability to keep functioning.”
But what about those who claim to feel fine and just as alert on less sleep? Meadows told the Daily Mail:
“A lot of people feel quite alert, almost buzzed, after four hours’ sleep […] What is happening is your body is activating its primeval fight or flight response. This reflex causes a state of hyper arousal, which limits or delays the negative impact you would get with longer-term sleep restriction.
“You become euphoric, which puts a positive spin on what would normally be perceived as a negative experience and it is still possible to multi-task, solve problems and display memory recall.”
The second phase of the experiment for Chalmers was spending the next five days getting six hours of sleep per night. She wrote:
“After just two days, I’m tired, snappy, forgetful and tearful. I’m also constantly hungry and craving sweet snacks to pep me up.
“Most shocking, though, are the results of the final scan of my face. After just 30 hours sleep in the past 120, my pores have more than doubled in size and the red areas have increased by 50 per cent. No wonder my husband declares: ‘You look lousy.’ ”
Cosmetic dermatologist Anita Sturnham told Chalmers:
“Sleep loss causes the body to release too little human growth hormone, which promotes the repair of skin cells.
“What you are seeing is your skin’s inability to heal itself […] Your face has become redder because it has an increased sensitivity to the bacteria generated by the rise in cortisol.”
If Chalmers continued to sleep for only six hours a night, her face would also experience broken capillaries, she was warned.
Guy Meadows, founder of the Sleep School, confirmed the link between appearance and lack of sleep:
“There’s a reason they call it beauty sleep.‘There’s a long-standing association between quality sleep and youthful looks and we are now beginning to understand the relevance in anti-ageing terms.”
Unfortunately for those who sleep less regularly, Meadows said that sleep simply can’t be made up:
“You can’t repair a sleep debt by having loads more sleep the next day. Your daytime activities are like a house party, and after every one of those you need a clean-up operation to remove the toxins amassed during the day.”
In addition to the harm caused to a person’s facial appearance, lack of sleep can also increase weight gain. Meadows said:
“One of the long-term consequences of restricted sleep is an increase in hunger.
“[…] That is why sleep is such an important component of the obesity crisis, particularly among the young — British schoolchildren are the sixth most sleep-deprived in the world.”
After experiencing the difference sleep made on her energy levels and appearance, Chalmers writes that she will make sure to get a full eight hours of sleep every night.
But most importantly, will you?