Losing sleep for one or two nights may not seem like the biggest deal in hindsight. In this day and age, we all just get on with or without it. We push through long working days despite feeling tired go through the motions in the gym without really engaging mentally. We turn to the sugary snacks and that sixth cup of coffee to fight the lag.
On the surface, this seems like it is not a big deal. Hey, it’s the norm of the 21st Century, right?
In reality, your poor sleep habits affect your mental and physical health. Far more than just yawning and general tiredness. So, is it ok to just push through on low sleep? What is the harm? And what can you do?
If you are worried about how poor sleep harms your health, here is a breakdown and takeaway actions that you can do now so it won’t keep you up at night.
How does poor sleep affect your health?
Sleep loss should not be ignored. Poor sleep affects your health in so many ways – from learning and memory, to fat loss, appetite and gym performance.
Here are 7 effects of sleep loss you need to know about.
1. Sleep loss increases your risk of an early death
This seems extreme, but studies have shown a clear link between insufficient sleep and an increased risk of dying from any cause. People who sleep for less than six hours a night are 12% more likely to have a premature death than those who sleep six to eight hours. 
2. Sleep loss affects your thinking and memory
If you suddenly find yourself drifting off during a meeting or while watching TV, you are probably catching a microsleep. These are very brief periods of sleeping during daily activities and can last from 0.5 to 7 seconds. 
Sleep deprivation can also affect how alert you are, your short and long-term memory, and your decision-making.  Not a big deal if you are just sitting at the dinner table and you zone out for 5 seconds, but what if it happens while driving or operating heavy machinery? It is estimated that up to 20% of road accidents are due to tiredness. 
3. Sleep loss can lead to poor mental health and depression
Ever noticed that if you have missed out on a restful night’s sleep the next day, your mood has plummeted? Your patience is lower, you are not feeling so positive, and you cannot handle stressful situations as easily. Low sleep can increase the risks of poor mental health and depression. 
4. Sleep loss impacts your fat loss
Decreased sleep time is directly linked to increased body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage and visceral fat. Even when dieting, poor quality sleep affects how weight is lost.
One study compared dieters who slept 8 hours versus 5.5 hours a night over a 14-day period. The results showed sleep deprivation decreases weight lost as fat by 55%, increases hunger, and causes an overall shift to using less fat for energy.
This decrease in muscle tissue also means metabolic rate is lowered – one of the biggest contributors to your daily calorie expenditure. Bad news for your body composition.
5. Sleep loss impacts your appetite
Sleep deprivation is shown to increase your appetite. It impacts your hunger and satiety hormones, so you tend to eat more.
Research shows a strong link between decreased sleep duration and irregular eating habits, snacking between meals, and eating fewer vegetables.
Sleep loss increases the amount you eat by an average of 385 calories, but does not increase your calorie burn. A recipe for weight gain.
6. Sleep loss puts more stress on your thyroid and gut health
Sleep loss can decrease our thyroid hormones, which play a key role in our metabolism and regulating our energy expenditure. 
Sleep quality and quantity can also increase inflammation in the gut, affecting everything from mood and immune function to reproductive health and the risks of obesity. 
7. Sleep loss will impact your training performance in the gym
Although being low on sleep will not necessarily make us unable to train, it can cause us to fatigue faster, be at a higher risk of injury and make the generally more challenging as we will be more sensitive to pain. 
8. Sleep loss can harm your reproductive health
Changes in sleep patterns, such as night shifts and insufficient sleep, can affect reproductive health in both men and women. Men who sleep under seven hours are significantly more likely to develop erectile dysfunction. 
What can you do to improve your sleep quality?
Getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done, but it is something you should actively work on if you find that your lack of sleep quality and quantity is affecting your productivity and your general well-being.
Here are some simple actions you can take to make improvements.
1. Get more daylight exposure every morning
The time it takes you to fall asleep and the quality of that sleep is affected by your exposure to daylight. Getting more sunlight earlier on in the day for at least 30-40 minutes is important. 
When it comes to the evening, limiting exposure to blue light devices such as phones will improve your sleep quality.20 If you cannot avoid your laptops in the evening, many devices have ‘night mode’ that shifts the screens colour temperature, or you can wear blue-light blocking glasses.
2. Create a sleep-friendly environment
Small changes in your environment will make a big difference. Ensuring that your bedroom is cool, dark and free from noise is ideal for helping you get to sleep. Even taking a hot bath or shower just before bed can help lower your core body temperature and help trigger sleep.
3. Stick to a sleep schedule
Having a consistent sleep schedule where you wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day creates a healthy sleep routine for your body. At the weekends especially, it can be tempting to go to bed later and to sleep in.
Also, plan and factor in how much sleep you need. If you know you cannot function properly without your 8 hours, then make sure you hit your target bedtime by setting an alarm as a reminder.
4. Keep coffee to the morning
Knocking back the cups of coffee may feel like it is giving you the boost of energy you need, and probably what you will do if you are low on sleep. This is not ideal close to bedtime. The half-life of caffeine is around five hours, so cutting these drinks for at least this period before sleep will make a difference.  If you want step-by-step help to quit caffeine for good, read our complete guide here.
What are the best supplements to help your sleep and recovery?
Lifestyle changes should always be the focus of improving your sleep quality and quantity. Still, supplements can play an important role in encouraging your body to a healthy sleep routine.
Before taking any supplements, always speak to your doctor first.
- UltraMag – Magnesium helps relax the nervous system before bed and promotes restful sleep and recovery.
- D3 Replenish –Vitamin D has been consistently shown to play an important role in the sleep-wake cycle. Vitamin D deficiency correlates with an increased risk of sleep disorders, including poor sleep quality, short sleep duration, and sleepiness. 
- Zinc NT – elevates mood and relieves tiredness, enabling you to focus on training and effectively recover afterwards.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) – can help prevent waking in the night due to the liver becoming overactive.
To purchase these supplements, head to your nearest U.P. gym or our online store.
Before taking any supplements, always speak to your doctor first.
Sleep is one of the most important yet underestimated components of health, affecting everything from gym performance, energy levels and mood to body composition. So, if you are especially serious about building a great physique, taking these steps to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep is key.