The immediate benefits of a good night's rest are obvious: Your energy levels are higher, productivity is easier, and the sun seems to shine just a bit brighter.
By contrast, everything seems harder after too-little sleep: Your energy levels plummet, small tasks appear monumental, and suddenly, the weather feels so gloomy.
And if you keep having bad sleep? That's when things get really difficult. Experts agree that it’s possible to bounce back after an occasional sleepless night or two. But routinely missing out on the recommended seven to eight hours can have serious and negative impacts on your brain and overall health.
If you're perpetually skipping on snoozing, here are five risks to your mental and physical health to be aware of:
1. Your immune system takes a hit
Ever pulled an all-nighter and caught a cold a few days later? It could be more than a coincidence. Without enough sleep, the body’s ability to fight back the germs and viruses of everyday life becomes inhibited. And that opens the door to some fairly miserable symptoms.
- One 2-week study tracked adults who were exposed to a common virus. The results found that those who slept less than seven hours were almost three times more likely to develop a common cold compared to those who slept at least eight hours. 
And it goes both ways, too: Getting plenty of sleep can boost your immune system.
- Research shows that adequate rest helps your body's "T cells," or immune cells that fight against the flu, HIV, and other pathogens, stay strong and efficient. 
In other words, if you've been getting sick more than usual, lack of sleep could be a major culprit.
2. Your risk for developing certain types of cancer may go up
While lack of sleep itself is not considered a cause for developing cancer, studies have found a correlation between irregular sleep patterns and the risk of developing certain kinds of cancer. For example:
- Getting less than six hours of sleep on average is estimated to increase one's risk of developing colon cancer by 50%. 
- Men who routinely have trouble falling and staying asleep (both are signs of insomnia) may be twice as likely to develop prostate cancer. 
- Women who routinely disrupt their sleep schedules to work night shifts may increase their risk for developing breast cancer by 20%. 
Again, it’s important to note that sleep habits aren’t directly causative for cancer. But letting your primary care doctor know about your work and/or sleep schedule during your regularly-scheduled check-ups can be a helpful precautionary measure.
3. Your sex drive goes down
While there's more to romance than eight hours of sleep, research does show that less sleep might lead to a lower sex drive. And it's true for both men and women. For example:
- One study tracked men in their early 20s for one week, and found that getting less than 5 hours of sleep every night reduced their testosterone levels by the same amount as aging 10-15 years. 
- One study showed that for women, just one extra hour of sleep saw a 14% increase in their chances of having a sexual encounter the next day. Meanwhile, less sleep was linked with less chance of arousal. 
Think of it this way: When you barely have the energy by the end of the day to brush your teeth, how likely are you to engage in – let alone initiate – sex?
4. Your risk for having a stroke increases
Getting the right amount of sleep may keep your risk of having a stroke at bay. For example:
- In one study of 300,000 adults, those who hit the sweet spot for sleep (logging seven to eight hours) were 22% less likely to have a stroke than their sleep-deprived counterparts. 
- One study comparing over 20,000 people with insomnia against 64,000 without insomnia found that those from the insomnia group had a 54% higher risk for stroke over a 4-year follow-up. 
It's important to note here that routinely getting too much sleep is also correlated with a higher chance of stroke. That’s because consistently snoozing for over eight hours is associated with a sedentary lifestyle, which is a contributing factor to stroke, too.
5. You’re more likely to have negative moods
You may well know this one first hand: After a restless night, are you more likely to snap at your partner over little things that you might otherwise let slide? Or panic over seemingly small incidents, like a cryptic text from a friend?
That’s because when we don’t sleep enough, our emotions take a hit. Studies show a direct correlation between sleep deprivation and an increase in negative moods, such as anger.
- One study tested participants’ reactions to varying levels of annoying noise stimulants, like static. They found that those who were sleep-deprived had significantly angrier reactions than their well-rested counterparts. 
And this translates onto the larger scale as well: Studies estimate that people with insomnia are four times as likely to develop depression as those without insomnia. 
Having trouble sleeping? Consider seeing a sleep disorder specialist
If you're having recurring issues with your sleep, consider working with a therapist who specializes in sleep hygiene or sleep disorders. The "gold standard" for sleep disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I for short). CBT-I is shown to improve sleep and daytime functioning by 70-80%, and also helps improves mood and reduce co-morbid concerns like depression.
Getting one-on-one advice from an expert can help you understand the root of your personal sleep issues, set you up to snooze through that seven- to eight-hour sweet spot, and enable you to bounce back to your healthiest self.
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