12 Eye-Opening Facts About Sleep Deprivation

tired woman yawmingSlumber. Snoozing. Catching ZZZZs. Hitting the hay. Call it what you want, but a.) you're probably NOT getting enough, and b.) you probably don't know why you need to be.

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Don't worry. We're all in the dark. Although we're supposed to be sleeping 7-9 hours EACH night -- not just on vacations -- most of us average less than that.

Check out these eye-opening scientific facts about sleep deprivation. Hopefully, they really WILL put you to sleep.

1. There's a good chance you're depriving yourself. Sometimes, like when you have a sick child or are struggling with extra work, you have no choice but to lose sleep. But many of us voluntarily give it up because we have "too much to do." Scientists have a name for this: It's behaviorally induced insufficient sleep syndrome.

2. Your risk for long-term health problems go up when you don't sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation's been linked to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, AND depression.

3. Not getting enough sleep destroys your attention. Not really an exaggeration. Lose just 1 1/2 hours of sleep and your ability to concentrate drops by 32 percent the next day.

4. Your brain shrinks without sleep. When you're snoozing, your brain essentially reboots itself, flushing away info it doesn't need. Stay awake and it doesn't have a chance. Research shows sleep-deprived brains are smaller and have less cells than well-rested gray matter.

5. You really can feel "tired down to your bones." Sleep deprivation ups your risk of osteoporosis. In one study, mice were deprived of sleep for 72 hours (which honestly sounds like animal cruelty). Afterward, scientists noted changes in their bone marrow and density.

6. You can build up a "sleep debt." When scientists restricted the sleep of lab volunteers to only four hours each night, the lack of shut-eye eventually caught up to them. After two weeks of such limited sleep, their brains were as cognitively sluggish as if they'd been awake for three nights straight.

More from The Stir: 15 Ways To Get More Sleep When You Don't Have More Time (PHOTOS)

7. Sleep-deprived people get drunk faster. Not getting enough rest makes you more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. So there's that.

8. Going without sleep is NOT pretty. It's your body's natural beauty treatment. Don't get enough rest and studies show that you'll be perceived by others as less healthy AND less attractive.

9. Too little sleep = too little sex. Men with poor sleep habits have lower levels of testosterone, which results in an "eh" sex drive. But women can be affected too. That combo of tiredness and tension caused by lack of sleep leads to sexual dysfunction.

10. Exhaustion will make you pack on the pounds. When you're wiped out, you don't think clearly OR make good decisions. Because of that, your brain will crave ... junk food. In one study, sleep-deprived participants wanted high-calorie fare like doughnuts, cake, and pizza over healthier fruits and veggies.

11. "Drowsy driving" is a killer. Seriously. When scientists studied the effect of daylight savings time, they found losing that ONE hour of sleep translated into a 17 percent increase in deaths the following Monday.

12. "I don't need a lot of sleep" is a myth. You know someone who says this, right? Well, according to estimates, perhaps only one person in a THOUSAND can actually function effectively on six or less hours of sleep each night. And let's be honest. That person probably isn't you. Pack it in and go to sleep already! You'll thank us in the morning. 

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Image via © Neustockimages/iStock; Photographee.eu/shutterstock

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