If you’ve ever spent a night tossing and turning, you
already know how you’ll feel the next day tired, cranky, and out of
sorts. But missing out on the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye nightly does
more than make you feel groggy and grumpy. The long-term effects of sleep
deprivation are real. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical
health at real risk. Science has linked poor slumber with all kinds of health problems, from weight
gain to a weakened
Your body needs sleep, just as it needs
air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and
restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new connections and helps
memory retention. Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t
function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life. A
review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night
increases the risk of early death by about 12 %.
The obvious signs of sleep deprivation are:
Stimulants like caffeine aren’t enough to override your body’s profound
need for sleep. Behind the scenes, chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with your body’s internal systems
and cause more than just the initial signs and symptoms listed above. Read on
to learn exactly how sleep deprivation affects specific body functions and
i)Central Nervous System
Your central nervous system is the information
highway of your body. Sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly, but chronic insomnia can disrupt how your body usually sends
information. During sleep, pathways forms between nerve cells (neurons) in your
brain that help you remember new information you’ve learned. Sleep deprivation
leaves your brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties as well. You may
also find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. The signals
your body sends may also come at a delay, decreasing your coordination skills
and increasing your risks for accidents. Sleep also negatively affects
your mental abilities and emotional state. You may feel more impatient or prone
to mood swings. It can also compromise decision-making processes and creativity.
If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you could start having hallucinations seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. A lack of
sleep can also trigger mania in people who have mania depression.
Other psychological risks include:
You may also end up experiencing micro sleep in
the day. During these episodes, you’ll fall asleep for a few seconds or minutes
without realizing it. Micro sleep is out of your control and can be extremely
dangerous if you’re driving. It can also make you more prone to injury due to
trips and falls.
While you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting
substances like cytokines. It uses these substances to combat foreign invaders
such as bacteria and viruses. Cytokines also help you sleep, giving your immune
system more energy to defend your body against illness. Sleep deprivation
prevents your immune system from building up its forces. If you don’t get
enough sleep, your body may not be able to fend off invaders. It may also take
you longer to recover from illness. Long-term sleep deprivation also increases
your risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease
The relationship between sleep and the
respiratory system goes both ways. A nighttime breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can interrupt your
sleep and lower the quality of your sleep. As you wake up throughout the night,
this can cause sleep deprivation, which leaves you more vulnerable to
respiratory infections like the common cold and flu . Sleep deprivation can also make existing respiratory
diseases worse, such as chronic lung illness.
Along with eating too much and not exercising,
sleep deprivation is another risk factor for becoming overweight and obesity.
Sleep affects the levels of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which control
feelings of hunger and fullness. Leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough
to eat. Without enough sleep, your brain reduces leptin and raises ghrelin,
which is an appetite stimulant. The flux of these hormones could explain
nighttime snacking or why someone may overeat later in night. A lack of sleep
can also contribute to weight gain by making you feel too tired to exercise.
Sleep deprivation also prompts your body to release higher levels of insulin after you eat. Insulin controls your blood sugar
level. Higher insulin levels promote fat storage and increase your risk for
type 2 diabetes.
Sleep affects processes that keep your heart and
blood vessels healthy, including your blood sugar, and inflammation levels. It also
plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair the blood vessels
and heart. People who don’t sleep enough are more likely to get cardiovascular disease.
Hormone production is dependent on your sleep.
For testosterone production, you need at least three hours of uninterrupted
sleep, which is about the time of your first REM episode. Waking up throughout
the night could affect hormone production. This interruption can also affect growth hormone production, especially in
children and adolescents. These hormones help build muscle mass and repair
cells and tissues. The pituitary gland releases growth hormones
continuously, but sleep and exercise also help induce the release of this