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Many Australians are sleep-deprived. Whether it’s binging late night TV, working night shifts, cramming for an exam or staying up from stress, 40% of Australians are not getting the 7-9 hours they need.

But what’s the big deal? We might be sleepier and need a few extra coffees, but does skimping on sleep have any real, long-term effects?

YES. You may not see the effects immediately, but consistently missing sleep can put you at a much higher risk for a whole host of conditions. Here are just a few:

• Compromised Immunity: Poor sleep cripples your immune system. Not only does it make you more susceptible to getting sick, it also makes it harder to recover. One study estimated that people sleeping fewer than 6 hours a night were 4 times more likely to catch a cold. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important to make sure we are looking after our immune system by sleeping enough. • Obesity: People who sleep less than 7 hours are more likely to be obese. With too little sleep, your body doesn’t produce as much appetite suppression hormone, and produces more appetite stimulation hormone. This leads to weight gain that people are generally too tired to exercise off. • Diabetes: Sleep-deprived people are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Sleep helps regulate your sugar levels and metabolism, and without enough of it, you put yourself at an increased risk of diabetes. • Heart Disease: Too little sleep can lead to a build-up of plaque in your arteries, and high blood pressure, putting you at an increased risk of heart disease. As a result, short sleepers have a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack. • Increased Risk of Motor Vehicle Accidents: People who sleep 6 hours or less drive worse than someone with a blood-alcohol reading of 0.05. Crashes due to tiredness are also twice as likely to be fatal. There’s a reason fatigue is one of the top 3 killers on the road.

So although you may not feel it now, short-changing yourself on sleep has very real, very serious long-term effects on your body. We all need to start prioritising those 7-9 hours of sleep to protect our health. If you are having serious problems sleeping, please see a sleep specialist.