What Does Sleep Deprivation Do to You?
Sleep deprivation… We’ve all been there when we clearly lack sleep and enter a vicious cycle of compensating those missed hours by watching TV, scrolling on social media, or getting distracted by anything else.
Did you know that seven to eight hours of sleep is the sweet spot? Any less may trigger a plaque build-up in the brain. So why is it that more than 35% of adults report sleeping less than 7 hours per night?
Well, there are many causes of sleep deprivation, and it’s important to be aware of them to overcome their negative effects, and the long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real.
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Not only does it drain your mental abilities, but it also puts your physical health at risk (i.e. weight gain, weakened immune system…). Last updated
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
In simple terms, sleep deprivation is caused by a consistent lack of sleep or a reduced quality of sleep. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis can lead to health consequences that affect your entire body.
This can also be caused by an underlying sleep disorder. To your body, sleep is as essential as air and food. Getting enough sleep highly contributes to building a healthy lifestyle, and maintaining a high quality of life.
How Do I Know When I’m Sleep-Deprived?
The most common signs of sleep deprivation are excessive sleepiness, frequent yawning, irritability, and daytime fatigue. If you are sleep-deprived and a fan of coffee, this won’t help your body recover from the lost hours of sleep.
Other signs of sleep deprivation include slow thinking, poor or risky decision making, mood changes, lack of energy, reduced attention span…
Your doctor can diagnose sleep deprivation by discussing symptoms and sleep patterns. Do not confuse sleep deprivation with insomnia. While both involve failing to get enough sleep, they are different.
People with insomnia have trouble falling asleep when they have plenty of time to do so, while people experiencing sleep deprivation do not have enough time to sleep as a result of bad habits.
The impact of sleep deprivation on our bodies and minds can range from drowsy driving to mental health disorders. With the central nervous system being the main information highway to your body, sleep is the key to keep it functioning properly.
Sleep deprivation leaves the brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties as well. Sleep deprivation impacts:
- Cardiovascular system – Sleep affects processes that keep your heart and blood vessels healthy, including those that affect your blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation levels.
- Endocrine system – Hormone production is dependent on your sleep. Waking up throughout the night could affect hormone production, which can also affect growth hormone production (especially in children and adolescents).
- Immune system – Immunodeficiency, including poorer response to vaccines occurs due to sleep deprivation.
- Respiratory system – The nighttime breathing disorder (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) can interrupt your sleep and impact its quality.
- Digestive system – Along with eating too much and not exercising well, sleep deprivation is another risk factor for becoming overweight and obese. Insufficient sleep can also cause diabetes as it affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.
- Mental health – Sleep and mental health are closely intertwined, and poor sleep is strongly associated with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
How To Prevent and Treat Sleep Deprivation
The most obvious and reliable way to fight against sleep deprivation is to get those 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
We will share some tips and tricks, very easy to follow steps. However, if you’re still struggling with sleep deprivation, you should reach out to a doctor or sleep specialist who will be able to diagnose and treat possible sleep disorders.
Read our article: Can You Get By on Little to No Sleep? and learn how to function on just a few hours of sleep by following a few simple techniques.
If this is the case, you may be given medication or advice to combat the disorder so you can ultimately get a better night’s sleep back! In the case where you are willing to incorporate new habits to sleep better, here’s an easy-to-do list for you:
- Limit daytime naps
- Refrain from caffeine past noon (or at least a few hours before bedtime)
- Going to bed at the same time each night
- Waking up at the same time every morning
- Sticking to sleep schedule during weekends and holidays
- Spend an hour doing relaxation activities (reading, meditating, taking a bath)
- Avoid heavy meals before bedtime
- Refrain from using electronics devices right before bed
- Exercising regularly
- Reducing alcohol intake
Overall, the most important step towards fighting against sleep deprivation is self-awareness and knowing that it is possible to overcome its negative effects.
By introducing the right habits and tricks to your daily routine, you will be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle and proper sleeping habits. These will positively impact your mental health.