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The Effects of Lack of Sleep

The day after a bad night’s sleep is never fun—you’re tired, cranky and out of it—but not getting enough sleep can do more than make you grumpy. 

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Of course, life happens. So, sometimes getting less than the recommended hours of sleep is unavoidable; but if you are constantly not getting enough sleep, it can lead to serious issues. Some side effects when you don’t get enough sleep include memory issues, trouble concentrating, mood swings, a weakened immune system, drowsiness, poor balance, high blood pressure, weight gain and risk of disease.

Why do we need sleep, anyways?

Sleep is essential. In fact, it’s right up there with food, water and air as far as things you need. Just because your body is still and relaxed while you sleep doesn’t mean it shuts down. It’s actually quite the opposite: sleep is an active period where your body does important processing, restoring and strengthening. Sleep also allows your body to restore its chemical balances. Not to mention, one of sleep’s most important benefits is forming short- and long-term memories. Think about all the information you receive during a typical day. When you sleep, your brain processes, transfers and stores all of this information.

Experts recommend that adults get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. And unfortunately, you can’t accumulate sleep the same way you save up your vacation days at work (dang it!). Because sleep is so essential to information retention and development, experts say that children need more sleep than adults—makes sense. One-year-olds should get somewhere between 11 and 14 hours of sleep, school-aged children need 9 to 11 and teens should get 8 to 10.

With all the benefits that sleep provides it’s no wonder that when you don’t get enough sleep, it’s harder to function. But what causes lack of sleep?

Top 4 Causes of Lack of Sleep

  • Sleep disruption can keep you from sleeping (hence its name). Whether it’s your kid or pet coming in and out, the light coming through the window or your neighbor’s music late at night, disruptions may be keeping you from getting all the sleep you need.

  • Your mattress may be keeping you from catching zzz’s. If you have a lumpy, creaky, old bed—you know, the kind with body-sized craters you get stuck in while you sleep—it’s probably not helping you sleep. Upgrade your mattress and start sleeping better. Same thing goes for your pillow. The right pillow will keep your spine and neck aligned while you sleep, so you wake up feeling refreshed, not sore and achy.

  • Drinking caffeine late in the day (or too much caffeine early in the day) can keep you from sleeping.

  • Bedroom distractions like your phone, computer and TV may also cause lack of sleep. Not only do you stay up on your devices when you should be asleep, but the blue light that technology emits keeps your brain active.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed dark circles or bags under your eyes? Are your eyes bloodshot? That’s probably because you didn’t get enough sleep. Some other symptoms include feeling fatigued, moody and irritable. If you don’t get enough sleep, it can also cause forgetfulness and make it harder to remember and learn new things—what some people describe as feeling fuzzy headed. Some more serious side effects of lack of sleep include weight gain and being more susceptible to illness.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, try some of these helpful bedtime tricks:

  • Create a bedtime routine (take a warm shower, stretch, use calming essential oils, etc.)

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (we know, easier said than done).

  • Instead of watching TV or scrolling through social media before bed, try reading a book.

  • Listen to a sound machine—white noise can be therapeutic and help lull you to sleep.

  • Make sure your room is completely dark.

  • Check out these sleep tips from successful people.