According to a recent Gallup study, 16% of Americans get six hours of sleep or less. Warning: This is not good news!

There are plenty of distractions that keep us from getting enough sleep, like constantly evolving technology that keeps us connected and awake, and pressures and long hours at work as we recover from the pandemic.

Parents and caregivers have been especially squeezed. But one truth touches everyone: When we neglect to bank seven to eight hours of nightly snooze time, writes Diana She for Fast Company, many aspects of our life are affected.

  1. Your focus. According to sleep specialist and psychotherapist Heather Turgeon, not only does getting insufficient sleep negatively affect the area of our brain associated with our working memory, but it also allows brain toxins to pile up. “Not getting enough restorative sleep [can] interrupt the formation of memories,” Turgeon told Fast Company. “During the day, we might not feel as sharp, and we may not have as clear a grasp on the information we learned.”
  2. Your creativity. When we’ve received enough sleep, we not only feel more awake during the day, but we may also be more creative. Research from Cardiff University, as covered by The Atlantic, suggests that the two stages of sleep (non-REM and REM) help us make connections between concepts that do not immediately appear related, which is important for creativity. When you wake up from a good night’s sleep, you may suddenly be able to see things differently and more clearly. Dreams are another essential aspect of creativity. By lucid dreaming we’re opened up to a new, judgment-free and even physics-defying playground in which to explore new ideas and thereby help us “hack” our creativity.
  3. Your performance at work. Multiple studies show there are real eye-popping economic costs to workers not sleeping enough each night. One 2017 study estimates a cost of $411 billion in 2015 dollars, or a 2.28% dip in the U.S. economy, due to loss of productivity from inadequate sleep.
  4. Your mental health. Our mental health can gradually become worse with insufficient sleep. Even worse, the act of worrying about not receiving enough sleep can lead to more stress. A recent Gallup and Casper survey revealed that women and young people are most prone to feeling anxious if they anticipate getting insufficient sleep in the night ahead. The same study also notes that insufficient sleep can lead to a rise in absenteeism in the workplace. Longer-term sleep problems have been connected to mood disorders, heightened mental distress and depression.
  5. Your emotional regulation. Your tendency to act impulsively can increase without sleep. Insufficient sleep can also deplete your typical levels of sociability and optimism, which are important for good mental health.
  6. Your physical safety. Driving while sleepy can be just as harmful as driving while drunk. In a study from the British Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers found that driving after staying awake for more than 17 hours was the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.05% (which, generally speaking, translates to two drinks in the first hour).