6 awful things that happen to your body when you don't get enough sleep

Little Nemo
Promo image | Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay, 1906 (Wikimedia Commons)

A UC Berkeley neuroscientist explains some of the surprisingly dramatic ways in which a lack of sleep affects the mind and body.

We all know we are supposed to get a good night's sleep. And many of us – aside from you fortunate sleepers who have the time and talent for slumber – don't get enough of it. Eight hours? Hahaha, says the chronic insomniac, the parent of small children, the person who has to be at work at six in the morning. And so it goes for the underslept: immediately insert coffee, wade through foggy morning, suffer from darkened eyes and enhanced irritability.

But according to Matthew Walker, PhD, author of "Why We Sleep" and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, the deleterious impact goes way beyond feeling groggy and grumpy during the day. In the video below, he explains just how seriously sleep or lack thereof can have an impact on your health – here are the six main takeaways, with further explanation in the video.

1. A lack of sleep prevents your brain from being able to make new memories.

2. Too little sleep leads to a boost in the development of a toxic protein in the brain called beta amyloid, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease

3. Sleeping just five or six hours a night affects the reproductive system in men, leading to a level of testosterone of someone ten years older.

4. Sleep deprivation has an impact on the immune system and predicts your risk for developing numerous forms of cancer.

5. A lack of sleep wreaks havoc on the cardiovascular system.

6. After being awake for 19 or 20 hours, mental capacity is so impaired that you would be as deficient as someone who was legally drunk while driving.

I suppose it all makes sense; the body wants sleep for a reason. But spelling it all out like that really drive the point home. For help in the forty-winks department, see the related stories below ... and get some sleep!

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