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Seven Lesser Known Consequences Of Lack of Sleep

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While sleep deprivation is likely the last thing on your list of New Year's resolutions, you may be surprised to find that it can be the culprit behind some very mysterious symptoms from increased cravings to skin aging. Here are seven reasons to get your sleep back on track that might surprise you.

1. It can make you look older
One of the first things I notice in my patients after we've restored their sleep patterns is that they look remarkably younger and now science backs this observation. Researchers at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center demonstrated that poor sleepers had increased signs of skin aging and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (UV) radiation. They also had a worse assessment of their own skin and facial appearance. This quick-trip to aging is likely from the reduced growth hormone and increased cortisol levels that go hand-in-hand with a sleepless night. It turns out that sleep is the foundation of youth, after all.

2. You'll want more high-calorie snacks
It's no surprise that those sleepless nights will send your appetite to a bad place and a 2013 UC Berkeley study confirms it's for calorie-dense junk food like burgers, potato chips and sweets. Using an MRI machine, researchers scanned the brains of 23 healthy young adults, first after a normal night's sleep and next, after a sleepless night. They found impaired activity in the sleep-deprived brain's frontal lobe, which governs complex decision-making, but increased activity in deeper brain centres that respond to rewards. In other words, the participants favoured junk food the day after a restless night. Case in point, you can't get to your weight loss goals without looking at your sleeping habits.

3. You and your spouse will fight more
Scientists have learned that a lack of sleep can cause relationship issues. Not to mention that relationship issues can cause a lack of sleep, so be careful not to fall into this cycle. UC Berkeley psychologists Amie Gordon and Serena Chen discovered that couples were more likely to argue and engage in unnecessary conflict after a bad night's sleep. So not only should you not go to bed angry, you may find your relationship improves when you get your seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

4. You'll feel more aches and pains
Lack of sleep can impair your natural pain control mechanisms and exacerbate those nagging aches and pains according to results of a 2011 study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism. Researchers from Norway have uncovered an association between sleep problems and increased risk of fibromyalgia in women. The opposite is also true—extending your sleep can reduce your pain sensitivity. In fact, for those who suffer from migraines, a good night's sleep may be your first defence.

5. It can affect your dating life
Chances are you've heard the term 'beer goggles', but Researchers at Hendrix College, in Arkansas found that 'insomnia goggles' may have a similar effect. The study showed that among college men it can affect their judgement in romantic situations—more specifically the frontal lobe's reign over inhibition and moral reasoning. If you want to get an accurate vibe on whether or not your date is really interested in you, be sure you get between seven and eight hours of sleep the night before.

6. Your anxiety will get worse
Whether or not you're prone to anxiety, a few nights without proper sleep can transform you into an excessive worrier. Neuroscientists, again from UC Berkeley, found that sleep deprivation amplifies anticipatory anxiety by affecting regions associated with emotional processing. If your mood is low and your anxiety is high, consider the most natural antidepressant around—sleep therapy.

7. Your insulin-sensitivity will be reduced
Your instinct to hit the snooze button may be right. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh discovered that teens who normally get six hours of sleep per night can improve their insulin resistance by nine percent by adding one extra hour of sleep.

It seems like a simple solution to the belly fat problem, although it does take practice. A ritual for getting sleep should begin a few hours before bed, versus in the 15 minutes before. Try turning off all bright devices (yes, this includes cell phones and laptops) and install a dimmer that you flick on in the evenings to allow yourself to wind down. During the weeks when our schedules get the best of us, use the weekends to catch up on those lost hours, and reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

For better results with your goals, commit to getting adequate sleep this year and encourage your clients to do the same.

Dr. Natasha Turner is North America's leading naturopathic doctor and founder of the Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of three bestselling books, The Hormone Diet, The Supercharged Hormone Diet and The Carb Sensitivity Program. She was recently recognized by the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors as being a leader in her field and is a regular guest expert on The Dr. Oz Show. Her work has been endorsed by New York Times bestselling authors, Suzanne Somers, Dr. William Davis and Dr. Christiane Northrup. Visit www.drnatashaturner.com

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