Yes, we all know in theory that we need to get more rest, but we never seem to actually do anything about it. Sure, part of our constant tiredness is due to circumstances beyond our control—we are too busy living to sleep—but maybe we need to start changing those circumstances because study after study seems to show that not getting enough sleep is truly terrible for our bodies. And now new research has found that a lack of sleep makes us eat more crappy food and also makes us more likely to have a stroke. Okay, okay, I’m going to close my eyes right now. I swear.
In terms of making you indulge in the junkier end of the food spectrum, it seems not getting enough sleep changes the way our brain reacts to choices between healthy and unhealthy menu items. One study, by Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge at Columbia University, found that the brains of sleep deprived people showed more activity in the reward centers of their brain when faced with unhealthy food. The well rested people, it seems, got less of a thrill from eating like crap. Of course, the more reward you experience from something, the more likely you are to eat it, so that doesn’t bode well for those of us who skate by on four or five hours of dreaming per night.
To make matters worse, a separate study by Stephanie Greer at the University of California, Berkeley, found that a lack of sleep impaired activity in the part of your brain that controls behavior and helps you make choices. That meant that people weren’t as able to make good choices when it came to which foods they’d like to eat. Of course, eating unhealthy food has any number of bad consequences, but taken together these two studies might help to explain why previous research has found a link between a lack of sleep and obesity.
But regardless of how much one gorges on Twinkies and Doritos when they’re tired, not getting enough sleep has now been shown to significantly increase the risk of stroke. A new study found that those who regularly get less than six hours a night are four times more likely to have a stroke. The study looked at more than 5,000 adults and found that the increased risk held even for those people whose Body Mass Index was normal and those who weren’t at risk for sleep apnea. This is the first study to connect a lack of sleep to stroke risk, but it’s also the first to show that adults who aren’t overweight and are not otherwise at risk for stroke are put at risk by not getting enough sleep.
Eek, this is all very bad news for the 30 percent of working adults who fall into the under six hours a night category—especially when you consider that not getting enough sleep has already been tied to obesity and also a small increase in being at risk for a heart attack. Add to that that not being well rested makes you feel like a crabby zombie, and it’s hard not to wonder if it might not be worth rejigging our social and corporate structure so that we don’t need to be starving ourselves of vital shut-eye just to keep up. Perhaps it is time to begin calling for the creation of an American siesta? Or maybe we need to start an Occupy Bedrooms movement? However we do it, it’s pretty clear that we all need to go the fuck to sleep.
Image via Lisa S./Shutterstock.