Carla S. - November 2, 2020
How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Health?
We all know that sleep is important. When you don’t get enough shuteye, you simply don’t feel good. You’re cranky and in a bad mood. You might eat less healthy foods. You have less patience. You’re more forgetful and less cautious. And the list goes on.
But do you actually know what happens to your body when you don’t get enough sleep? There are both short- and long-term impacts to consider, and we’ll be honest with you, they’re not pretty.
We’re going to take a closer look at how sleep deprivation affects your health and what steps you can take to sleep better and for longer.
A Little Bit About Sleep Deprivation
First things first though, it’s worth noting that not all sleep deprivation is created equal. With our busy schedules, oftentimes we sacrifice sleep so we can get more done. Other people suffer from deprivation due to passing events in their lives: extra stress, a new baby, a change in schedule, etc.
Some people suffer from sleep disorders, from restless leg syndrome to insomnia and even narcolepsy. Other people are battling an illness that makes sleeping more difficult, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, cancer, depression or chronic pain.
Short-Term Effects Of Not Getting Enough Sleep
If you have a poor night’s sleep, unsurprisingly you might find that you suffer from excessive sleepiness during the day. This is uncomfortable and might lead you to perform poorly at work, experience difficulties concentrating and, even worse, it could very well make you a danger in the workplace and also on the roads. Statistics show that drowsy driving is responsible for thousands of accidents and fatalities each year.
You might have a hard time remembering things, as a lack of sleep can impact your capacity to process information, impair memory, and even think clearly. You’ll also note that you feel less alert.
You might find your overall outlook is negative and suffer from mood swings, which can affect your relationships with your family, your partner, your kids and your colleagues. When we’re tired we might end up arguing more or having more conflicts than usual.
When you get too little sleep, your body will have a harder time fighting off infections. While we sleep, the immune system releases proteins, known as cytokines. When we’re under stress or suffering from an infection or from inflammation, we need these proteins to increase; however, when we’re running low on sleep, production can decline.
Sleep deprivation can also make us more sensitive to pain. In fact, studies show that we are more sensitive to heat and pressure pain in particular when we’re running low on sleep. Some people feel an increase in sensitivity and pain in their esophagus which, over time, could lead to a more serious diagnosis such as fibromyalgia.
Long-Term Impact Of Sleep Deprivation
If sleep deprivation has become a way of life for you, you should know that not getting enough rest night after night can have some serious health complications.
People with sleep disorders jeopardise not only their physical health but also their mental health, and have a higher risk of developing anxiety and/or depression. In fact, people who regularly get less than six hours per night are more likely to develop these disorders. In particular, people with insomnia are more likely to develop depression.
Poor sleeping can lead to weight gain as well. People who sleep less often have more cravings for foods that are high in fat and carbohydrates, plus they experience an increase in hunger and appetite in general. In fact, studies show that people who get less than six hours of sleep were 30% more likely to become obese, compared with people who got seven to nine hours of sleep.
Anyone who has had a poor night’s sleep will tell you that they don’t look their best the next day, but a consistent lack of sleep can take a serious toll on your appearance, especially your skin.
If you’re always tired, your body tends to release more cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. Too much cortisol can actually break down collagen, the protein that helps to keep your skin elastic and smooth. Ongoing sleep deprivation can also lead to fine lines, dark circles under your eyes, and lackluster skin.
Over time, chronic lack of sleep can affect not only your emotional wellbeing, but also your hormone levels, and it can have a serious impact on your sex life as both men and women alike report lower libidos and less interest. Not enough sleep can lead to lower testosterone levels, which in turn can reduce sexual desire in males and females, and research has shown that sleep deprivation can cause erectile dysfunction in men.
Severe sleep deprivation can affect your heart as well. For people who don’t get enough sleep, this increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, and researchers believe that this is because not sleeping enough can lead to disruptions in biological processes and health conditions, such as inflammation, blood pressure and glucose metabolism.
How to Improve Your Sleeping
Broadly speaking, we need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. For people who consistently don’t get enough sleep, that might sound like a dream. Below are five ways to improve your sleep and get the rest you need.
Here are the steps to making the teepee tent frame, draping, and how to string it all together:
1: Buy the right matress.
In today’s marketplace, there are tons of different types of mattresses available, and it’s very important to find the right one to accommodate your specific sleep habits. Whether you’re a back sleeper, a side sleeper or a hot sleeper, and whether you need a mattress topper, cooling technology or an organic model, there’s a mattress out there that’s right for you and will provide the maximum comfort all night long.
2. Keep a sleep diary
If you keep a log of your sleep and wake up times, all the food and beverages you eat and drink, how long and how well you slept, if you woke up during the night, any medication you took, if you had any alcohol or caffeine and how much, and any exercise you had, you can start to identify patterns and potentially determine the cause for your sleep deprivation. This can help you see if you have a sleep disorder and take the steps to fix it.
3. Light exposure
You want to get enough light exposure during the day and keep things dark at night, so don’t forget to open those curtains nice and wide when you wake up to let the light in, spend time outside during the day if you can, and get natural light into your house or office during the day.
A study with older adults showed that exposing them to two hours of bright light each day improved sleep duration and quality and enabled the majority to fall asleep faster.
At night, try to avoid watching TV and, in general, avoid screens a few hours before bedtime. Also make sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible, either with an eye mask or with heavy shades.
4. Skip the caffeine
This may seem like a no-brainer, and while caffeine may have plenty of health benefits, drinking it in the afternoon or before bed can be very disruptive. In fact, studies show that having caffeine even six hours before bed can ruin your sleep. Caffeine can stay in your blood for six to eight hours, so if you have to have your cup of joe, stick to decaf.
5. Stick to a schedule
It’s important to try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, regardless of what day it is. Being consistent in this regard can go a long way to improving your sleep, while being inconsistent ultimately can impact your levels of melatonin and impact your circadian rhythm. This study revealed that people whose sleep patterns were not consistent and went to bed late on the weekends did not experience restful sleep.
The Importance of Finding a Solution
It’s clear that establishing healthy sleep patterns and proper sleep hygiene are essential for maintaining good health, in both the short and long term.
If you suffer from sleep apnea or a sleep phase disorder, if you can’t fall asleep and stay asleep, and if you experience daytime sleepiness or consistently get insufficient sleep, it’s time to get serious about finding a solution.
Because if you’re suffering when the sun goes down and you can’t see to improve your quality of sleep no matter how hard you try, consider seeing a sleep specialist or another professional. After all, your health is at stake.