We know face-value how tiredness can affect a person. Your eyes feely droopy, you’re not as alert, and all you can think about is how great it would be to roll back under your duvet. But the body is a complex thing, and fatigue can impact your health and your bodily functions in ways you might not have imagined.
Who knew there was a connection between sleep deprivation and being overweight? But scientific research has proven it’s possible the former can cause the latter. “Studies have demonstrated that sleep loss could influence glucose and hormone levels in the blood (decreased leptin, increased ghrelin) which alter negatively the metabolism and increase hunger,” explains Dr Nagete Boukhezra, a GP at the Private GP, London Doctors Clinic.
That’s the scientific link between tiredness and body weight, but there’s also a more holistic link. When you’re tired, you’re less inclined to do physical activity, and weight gain can be a consequence of that. “The best way to overcome this is to boost your metabolism,” advises Dr Nagete. “Eat regular meals. Do regular strenuous exercise. Stay active by walking every day. Get enough sleep.”
Tired you = normal you, just way more moody and irritable. “Studies have shown that sleep deprivation has a significant impact on the mood with increasing stress, anger, sadness and mental exhaustion,” explains the doctor. Which is why it’s so important to make sure you recover from any lost hours of sleep as soon as you can, to prevent a build up of exhaustion.
No, it’s not just a coincidence that you find it harder to remember people’s names or recall specific words when you’re suffering from extreme tiredness. “From day one, lack of sleep can make you feel tired, sleepy and drowsy, and you can find it more challenging to be focused or to be effective at work,” notes the doctor. When exhaustion intensifies, it’s scientifically proven to take a toll on memory. “One study showed that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome have impaired performance on effortful tasks requiring planned or self-ordered generation of responses from memory,” she explains.
“In the short term, you might find caffeinated drinks to be helpful by boosting your level of energy,” Dr Nagete advises, warning that they can disrupt your sleep patterns in the long term.
Some times you really do look as tired as you feel. “Overnight, you build all the molecule like collagen that prevents from sagging. With poor sleep, your skin will age faster,” says Dr Nagete. As well as that, lack of sleep prevents skin from repairing itself at night, meaning wounds can take longer to heal. “Newer studies showed the link between sleep deprivation and general inflammation of the body,” adds the expert. “Sleep deprivation affects levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases inflammation. Inflammation may lead to outbreaks of acne, eczema and more,” she notes.
“A good night’s sleep helps to avoid the short-term effect on your skin like the puffy eyes and dark circles, and a good sleep routine will prevent premature aging as well as reducing skin outbreaks,” says Dr Nagete.
5. Mental health
A good night’s sleep won’t necessarily solve everything, but it can go some way towards making you feel healthier mentally. “Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of various mental health disease,” says Dr Nagete, pointing to a study conducted in China in 2015 which revealed that short and long sleep deprivation was significantly associated with increased risk of depression in adults. “However, the relationship between mental health and sleep quantity is very complex, as tiredness can be a cause for mental health issue as well as a consequence,” she adds.
As a warning, the doctor advises: “Make sure that you do not accumulate sleep debt, and discuss with your GP if you experience tiredness associated with mood changes.”
Tiredness doesn’t just wreak havoc with your emotions, your skin and your mind – it can also mess with your appetite, too. “When you are tired, your body is searching for more ‘ fuel’, and the easier way to boost your energy level quickly is to have carbohydrates,” says Dr Nagate. “That’s why we crave high sugar, high carb, and high calorie food when we are tired.
“If you feel tired and you’re craving food, try to swap your initial cravings for healthy carbohydrates (like starchy veggies and fruit), proteins or healthy fats,” the doctor adds.
What are you doing today to feel less tired?