Sleepy man with coffee and alarm clock

Sleep vs Life

The Dangers of Staying Up One More Hour

Sometimes Sleep gets in the way of Life.  Life as in Friends coming over, the Game on TV, the last couple of pages in that good Book, you know LIFE.  We know sleep is essential, we know we’ll pay the price for missing sleep, we also know that we can’t miss out on LIFE.  So what happens when we say “Sleep be darned, I’m staying up tonight!”  Let’s take a closer look at the downside of that missed sleep.

Father with child on recliner asleep

Popular thought is that 7 to 8 hours of sleep are the magic hours for our sleep patterns.  Most people can get by just fine with 7 hours a night; some cannot function without 8 or more.  The key is knowing when you are performing at your best, knowing that the alarm clock is not necessary to wake you, but just there as a back up to make sure you’re on time.  That’s when you know you’re getting enough sleep.  Start taking away, chipping away, an hour of that valuable rest, and you will feel a difference in your wakefulness.  One hour seems like nothing to lose, two hours slightly more but still acceptable, three hours and most of us see a danger zone, four hours and most of us will stop and consider if this activity is worth the price you’ll be paying tomorrow.  

So why is the next day so tough?  What’s going on?  

Assuming that the Life activity you sacrificed sleep for did not involve alcohol or caffeine intake, there are a few things that are taking place in your body and brain that you will definitely feel. 

  • Lost sleep equals slower brain function. You miss out on sleep stages.  Most likely you reach some of the cycles, but by limiting your downtime, you limit your time to reach different stages of sleep and your time in those stages.  
  • Lost sleep equals terrible memory retention. Yes, one night of sleep can affect your memory the next day.  Your feeling of wakefulness is most likely defined heavily by your ability to remember and recall quickly.  This won’t happen near as fast on a day after losing even one hour of sleep. Expect near debilitation of recall for four hours loss.   
  • Lost sleep equals higher blood pressure. Can one night really affect your blood pressure? Yes.  Studies show sleep deprivation raises blood pressure. These studies were done on YOUNG, FIT individuals, imagine what it does for an average adult’s health. Hypertension 27, no 6 (1996) 1318-24.
  • Lost sleep equals increased weight.  While not an immediate cause of weight gain, sleeping less can cause an increase in snacking, and in calorie retention.  See our blog entry on Sleep and Weight Gain for more information.
  • Lost sleep equals mood swings.  Studies done on healthy young adults involving brain scans and pictures of emotionally negative subjects (i.e. snakes, fires) showed a much higher response to these emotional triggers when sleep was limited to less than optimal amount, even on the first night.  

Is it worth the Sacrifice?

One night of less sleep definitely won’t kill you.  We know it won’t destroy your health, BUT it will make for a much harder day the following day.  Do keep in mind though that continuing along on this path of sleep loss night after night can and will cause lasting health problems.  Sleep is essential, and the key to living a long healthy life.  Your body and brain both will thank you for the time spent in bed!  

About the author:

Javier is the owner of Sleep Well, professionally trained sleep stores, specializing in specific mattresses for specific needs. He lives to give. He is an active member of his community and church. His hard work and efforts pay off for him when he can help others, and give to efforts for the betterment of others.
His spare time is spent with his beautiful wife, Gretchen. They are craft beer hobbyists who enjoy making their own beers, visiting small breweries, and making new friends. Their lives revolve around church, family, exercising, four great dogs, and keeping up with their home in Alamogordo NM.