Lack of sleep can impact your health in surprising ways. Here’s why you need to make z’s a priority—even when you’re not in your own bed.

Frequent travelers often accept disrupted sleep patterns as the norm, but those nights of little sleep can do more than make you groggy: They can seriously impact your health.

In a study from the University of Chicago, researchers followed 10 overweight but healthy people who were placed on a balanced diet, then observed in two 14-day increments—one in which they got about 7.5 hours of sleep a night, and another in which they got five hours and 15 minutes a night. During both periods, the participants lost an average of 6.6 pounds. But when they were short on sleep, they held onto more fat—about 1.8 pounds more fat. In another study, University of Washington researchers found that those who logged 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night had an average body mass index (BMI) of 24.8—almost 2 points lower than the average BMI of those who slept less.

Other sleep-related health risks:

  • Those who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night are three times more likely to catch a cold.
  • Another study found that those who regularly sleep less than 6 hours a night can’t metabolize sugar properly, possibly setting the stage for type 2 diabetes.
  • Chronic lack of sleep reduces reaction time, alters mood, and increases susceptibility to depression.

Want to fall asleep faster? An hour before bed, turn off the TV, computer, and smartphone, and dim the lights. Take a hot shower. Try some light stretching. Then hit the sack.