As we head into the festive season, late-night celebrations become part of the fun, and maintaining the perfect sleep balance can become tricky, but did you know that sleep is essential to fending off a range of health concerns. 

Sleep – both quantity and quality is one of the most frequently discussed topics among healthcare professionals, and studies have shown that up to 36% of UK adults struggle to get to sleep and manage less than 5 hours each night.

Here, leading health experts explore the six dangerous side effects poor slumber can have on the body and reveal expert tips to help you catch all the ZZZ’s you need.

Your Sex Drive Diminishes 

Did you know that a lack of beauty sleep could affect your performance in the bedroom and even fertility?

Studies show that not getting enough sleep may decrease testosterone levels by up to 15% in just one week, and it’s that that testosterone that is responsible for giving you that additional boost of energy needed for the bedroom. 

Dr. Martin Kinsella, leading hormone expert and founder of BioID Health explains: “Testosterone is a vital hormone present in both men and women that plays a vital role in supporting both libido and satisfaction. 

For women specifically, a lack of sleep can impact vaginal arousal which may lead to significant discomfort during sex. Studies have also shown that women who frequently get less than seven hours of sleep are up to 15% less likely to get pregnant, than women who got the recommended seven to eight hours.” 

Your Mental Health Pays the Price  

You probably know first-hand that a poor night’s sleep makes you grouchy the next day. Studies have shown that even missing one night of sleep can lead to some major cognition issues, including confusion, forgetfulness, decreased alertness, and irritability.

Dr. Kinsella adds: “People who struggle to get an adequate amount of sleep may find they become more easily stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted than those who get the recommended amount. This can really take its toll on daily life and impact everything from performance in work to family life. 

Those who struggle to sleep on a regular basis or suffer from Insomnia may be up to five times more likely to develop psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.”

You Gain Weight 

When we think of weight, we think of diet and exercise, but you might be surprised to learn that sleep plays a major role in your weight but is often overlooked. 

Dr. Charlotte Norton, Medical Director at The Slimming Clinic explains that when you don’t get enough shut-eye, you may feel less motivated to exercise, which may lead to you making poor food choices throughout the day.

“If you are sleep deprived, you may find yourself reaching for sugary snacks more throughout the day. This is ultimately down to a lack of energy, which may make you crave foods that are high in calories fat, and sugar. Overall, this may increase your risk of developing Type II diabetes.” This tends to be worse around Christmas time, with the abundance of festive food and drinks.”

Hagen Schumacher, a Consultant Plastic Surgeon from Adore Life adds: “Unfortunately, weight gain is something that can affect people both physically and mentally, particularly around Christmas time, when people tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves, and there is more temptation to consume calorie-rich festive foods. From stubborn body fat to sagging skin weight gain can impact overall self-confidence, which can negatively affect mental health.”

Andre Fournier, Co-Founder of Deleo adds: “The sagging skin and stubborn body fat can be a real struggle for some, but there are some solutions that may help. Deleo’s Cristal body layering concept was created with the consumer in mind; built-in with three fundamental functions to help target volume, tonicity, and firmness.”

Your Skin Suffers

The phrase ‘beauty sleep’ doesn’t come without merit. Studies have shown that poor sleeping habits could directly impact the overall condition of the skin and paving way for premature aging, dullness, and uneven skin tone.

Lou Sommereux, a leading Clinical Nurse from Cosmex Clinic in Cambridge comments: “The skin is the human body’s largest organ, so sleep is vital to maintaining its overall health. Without regular, quality sleep, you may notice that your skin appears duller with more pronounced fine lines and wrinkles, this is because a lack of quality sleep impacts the skins’ natural ability to repair itself.”

Hagen Schumacher adds: “As we sleep, the body goes through three distinct repair stages that contribute to the overall wellbeing of the skin. 

The first stage is where the body produces two vital hormones, somatotropin (growth), and melatonin (antioxidant), which contribute greatly to the skin’s overall health and ability to repair itself. Without these hormones, the skin is unable to repair itself effectively which may lead to accelerated aging. 

During the final stage of sleep, your body begins to produce collagen, which is essential to maintaining skin health.”

Mel Gravel Barnes, Skin Lead at Croma Pharma and Universkin explains: “Collagen is a vital protein for the skin. It helps the skin retain moisture, and elasticity which keeps the skin looking plump and youthful. Lack of sleep means collagen production decreases, which leads to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. To further support skin health, I recommend incorporating hyaluronic acid into your skincare routine; this natural humectant can hold up to 1,000 its weight in water and may help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”

You Get Sick

While you sleep, your immune system naturally produces antibodies to help fight infections. Sleep deprivation prevents your immune system from building up the necessary forces to keep you protected, which may also impact your ability to recover from illnesses. 

Long-term insomnia may also increase your risk of more serious health complications such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. This is because shortened sleep can increase the production of CRP, a reactive protein that is released with stress and inflammation, unfortunately, if CRP levels are constantly high, it may increase the risk of more complex health issues.  

The take-away

Between Christmas festivities, make sure you are prioritising and maintaining a healthy sleep pattern. The experts recommend sticking to a consistent schedule and trying to avoid too many stimulants, including alcohol and caffeine that will keep you awake. 

Ideally, a healthy adult should aim to get around seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. If you struggle to fall asleep, try taking a warm bath before bed, and switching your mobile phone out for a good book that will help to relax the brain.