Lack of Sleep is the Devil: Why Sleeping 8 hours is the best medicine

Have you been trying to lose weight for years and can't shed the pounds? Do you have insatiable cravings for carbs all the time? Hello potato chips! Are you irritable? Have issues with your blood pressure? Premature wrinkles a concern? Or do you have a weak immune system? Turns out that sleep deprivation may be the culprit.

In his genius book, "Dreamland Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep," David Randall explores all the scientific research behind sleep, including the damaging effects on our health if we skip the necessary shut eye for too long.

I've written about how Americans are the most sleep deprived people on the planet. As a fan of sleeping in, I'm happy to report that I'm not among the millions who don't get enough sleep. I protect and carve out time to sleep and been doing so for years. Do you?

As a young girl my sleeping habits annoyed my mother who thought that there was much to do around the house and in the world to "waste" a morning by sleeping in. Once I found out that Albert Einstein loved his sleep, I told her that it was a sign of my genius, something she did not buy at all.

I did discover over the years however that when I slept my prescribed eight to nine hours--how much you need depends on the individual but by all accounts, seven hours is the minimum--I always woke up refreshed, happy and raring to go. When I got anything less, I immediately felt it in mind, body and spirit. I got headaches, I got cranky, I wasn't crisp and clever, I was lethargic. It's not cute--depriving myself of sleep makes me a hot mess.

It's common knowledge that women are the most sleep deprived of all groups and with work, kids, family, and life's double duties the finding does not surprise. If you're one of the millions who get only a few hours in each night listen to me: you are killing yourself slowly. Read on...

In his book Randall chronicles studies with rats that were sleep deprived. The lab rats, sadly, lasted only two weeks without sleep. Now a human being can last 40 days without food, yet we can't last more than fourteen days before our organs start shutting down. But the more disturbing part of the studies that Randall discusses in his book is what happens before the rats keeled over and drowned: the rats--  purposely kept awake by placing them on a plank in a tank of water that tipped over when they fell asleep--developed festering sores all over their bodies that did not heal and their fur fell off in chunks.

OK so you are not a rat, but there is a reason for concern. In humans, researchers have found again and again that denying your body the necessary rest taxes your organs, compromises the body's temperature and immune system. And much, much more. According to Randall, humans who were kept away from sleeping for too long developed the same signs as rats. He notes this:

Within the first 12 hours of sleep deprivation blood pressure increases, metabolism levels go haywire causing uncontrollable craving for carbs. The body temperature drops and that means the immune system gets weak. If this goes on for too long there is a good change that the mind will turn against itself making the person experience visions and hear phantom sounds like a bad acid trip. Even the most simple decisions or recalling obvious facts drops off.

In other words not sleeping turns is into idiots.

The great news: This downloaded spiral completely vanishes simply by sleeping a couple of hours.

There is a reason for the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty and I realize that it has little to do with a prince or even beauty, though one of the great benefits of sleeping in is the anti aging effects. Just ask Jennifer Lopez who says her beauty secret is sleeping!

Skipping on the shut eye has severe harmful effects on your health. If it isn't already, sleeping the hours that your body needs should be on your daily schedule and figuring out how to make that happen should be on the top of your to do list.