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How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Health?

Sleep-Deprivation

Last Updated on April 12, 2020 by Ben Locke

There is a popular misconception floating around that sleep is simply a waste of time. You will hear a lot of people swear by the adage, “You Snooze You Lose”. However, they cannot be further away from the simplest truth of life. The fact is that you have to sleep and sleep; you must for your body to remain in harmony and work efficiently. The concept of sleep was only discovered in the 1920s, but since then, this natural and deceptively simple act has taken the medical community by storm. The doctors and physicians are amazed at the sheer number of ways that sleep affects your body and your mind. A lot more has yet to be studied and revealed regarding sleep. However, one thing is certain, and that is that sleep plays a crucial role in your health, and sleep cannot be replaced. This article will shed light on the ways sleep impacts your health to help you understand the relationship between sleep and health.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is simply a term used for lack of sleep, sleeplessness, or insufficient sleep. When you do not get the required number of hours of sleep as needed by your body, then you are said to be sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation is of two types:

  • Acute Sleep Deprivation
  • Chronic Sleep Deprivation

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is easily identifiable. The beauty of sleep is that even one hour of less sleep the night before is enough to upset your system. Some common signs that you are not getting enough sleep are listed below:

  • Continuous yawning
  • Mood swings and Irritability
  • Eye Irritation
  • Headaches
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling sleepy during the day

Sleep Deprivation and Health

Health is of paramount importance to anybody. You cannot think of health without thinking about rest and sleep. After all, if your body is tired, how can it effectively fight off any infection or illness? The exact ways in which sleep deprivation compromises your health is listed below:

Short Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Acute sleep deprivation affects your health temporarily in the short run. Some of these effects are:

  • Weight Gain: Sleep regulates the hormone leptin and ghrelin. These are responsible for hunger and appetite. When you are sleep deprived, these hormones don’t function properly and cause you to eat more, leading to weight gain.
  • Increased level of stress: Sleep impacts your brain functioning. Your body stress levels increase in response to the fatigue and tiredness caused by a lack of sleep.
  • Somatic problems: There is a notable increase in the level of headaches and abdominal pain when you are sleep deprived. This symptom tends to affect girls more than boys.
  • Psychological Issues: Certain psychological issues have also been associated with sleep deprivation. These are:
    • Mood swings especially a tendency for anger and general irritability
    • Memory lapse
    • Lack of Concentration
    • Performance deficit
    • Compromised cognitive functions

Long Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation

When acute sleep deprivation remains untreated or is not reversed, then over some time, it converts into chronic sleep deprivation. This has a much more serious and long-lasting health impact.

  • Hypertension: Prolonged sleep deprivation causes increased stress in the body. It has also been associated with high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and inflammation. All of this combined increases your chances of developing hypertension.
  • Heart Attack and Stroke: Research suggests that sleep deprivation disrupts the part of your brain that is responsible for controlling the circulatory system. Also, lack of sleep causes inflammation, which in turn makes you prone to blood clots. Both these reasons contribute to the increased incidence of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Obesity: Lack of sleep gives rise to negative eating habits. The rise in stress, fatigue, mood swings all cause you to binge and indulge in emotional eating. Further sleeplessness impacts the ghrelin hormone responsible for appetite suppression. This further exacerbates the problem leading to obesity.
  • Immune system deficiency: Sleep helps your immune system to function optimally and effectively. Lack of sleep, even by a few hours, is enough to throw the immune system off balance. Chronic sleep deprivation severely impacts immunity. During sleep, your T-cells help your immunity function by producing “Cytokine.” The cytokines help T-cells in identifying and attacking specific foreign pathogens.
  • Decreased Fertility: Lack of sleep causes difficulties in conception in women and lower sperm count in men. Apart from this, it also leads to reduced libido and testosterone levels. This is because the part of your brain that regulates the circadian rhythm also controls the reproductive hormones. So anything less than 7 hours of sleep compromises your fertility and your libido.
  • Diabetes: Sleep deprivation lowers your body’s resistance to insulin and the processing of glucose in your bloodstream. This leads to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Depression and Anxiety: Sleep regulates the production of the hormone “melatonin.” This hormone is responsible for your general well being and for regulating your response to stress triggers. Lower levels of melatonin are associated with clinical depression. People with chronic sleep deprivation are known to have a low tolerance to daily stressors. This leads to anxiety and panic attacks.

Tips to Overcome Sleep Deprivation

Overcoming sleep deprivation is easy. You just have to get more sleep into your system. Some pointers on sleeping and staying asleep are:

  • Exercise daily
  • Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule
  • Eat a healthy nutritious, varied diet comprising of plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine and sugar at least two hours before bedtime
  • Stay clear of technology and blue light for an hour before hitting the sheets
  • Invest in a good mattress, pillow, and bed linen. Keep it comfortable and inviting
  • Indulge in stress-relieving activities like yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy

Common Queries on Sleep Deprivation

Does sleep deprivation have long term effects on the body?

Sleep deprivation is an easily reversible condition. All you have to do is catch up to those snoozes. However, you have to do that before your body starts exhibiting signs of permanent damage. The cumulative long term effects of sleep deprivation include:

    • Hypertension
    • Diabetes
    • Heart attack
    • Psychological conditions like hallucinations and depression
    • Stroke

Can you reverse years of sleep deprivation?

Research exhibits that you might fully reverse the effects of more than 20 hours of sleep debt. However, you can minimize the effects and improve the compromised organ functioning by tacking on an extra hour of sleep every day or night.

How long does it take to recover from the effects of sleep deprivation?

Racking up your sleep debt is simpler than trying to discharge it. Your body takes a long time to bounce back from the effects of sleep deprivation. A 2016 study revealed that when you get down to it, your body takes four days to recover from one hour of lost sleep.

Do naps count towards catching up on sleep?

Napping can help you catch up to the lost sleep of the night before. Research shows that napping for a short while leads to increased concentration, alertness, and productivity. Just a mere 20 minutes of a power nap is enough to discharge one hour of lost nighttime sleep. However, keep in mind that napping is an acquired practice, and not everyone can do it.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, whether you believe in sleep or whether you don’t, your body demands it, and if you are wise enough, you will listen to your body. A lot of problems can be nipped in the bud if you attune to the needs of your body. So before the body takes over and stops you from following your routine, pull those sheets close, fluff up that pillow and catch up on the snoozes.

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