We are always so tempted to trade in a few hours of sleep because of various reasons.
Some do it to make that extra shilling , some do it in pursuit of their passions. Some in search of self fulfillment and some because of a new crush you can’t get enough of. Some because that movie got more interesting than anticipated and some because of the community frowns upon sleeping too much.
The widespread practice of ‘burning the candle at both ends’ has created so much sleep deprivation that what was termed as abnormal sleeping habits is now almost the norm.
After all, time is the ultimate luxury; there never seems to be enough, so we’re forced to economize, slicing up our hours and dividing them between conflicting responsibilities and activities.
Sleep deprivation is a condition that is easily overlooked in today’s society. One in three of us suffers from sleep deprivation , with work and current technology trends often taking the blame.
Are you in debt?
The immediate effects most people experience from a poor night’s sleep is excessive yawning, fatigue, short temper and lack of focus. However, the long term costs of prolonged sleepless nights are more grim than just the bad moods and yawning.
An occasional night without sleep at most leaves you feeling tired and irritable the next day, but usually won’t harm your health. However after several sleepless nights you incur what is termed as a sleep debt,and the mental effects become more serious. Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You’ll start to feel down, and may fall asleep several times during the day which increases risks of injury and accidents at home, work or on the road..
Sleep debt is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that the debt be paid.
We are all unique and the amount of sleep we require .with age being a major determining factor.
Below is The National Sleep foundation recommended sleep range guideline.
|Newborns (0-3 months)||14-17|
|Preschoolers (3-5 years)||11-14|
|Teenagers (14-17 years)||8-10|
|Young adults (18-25 years)||7-9|
|Adults (26-64 years)||7-9|
|Older adults (65 and above)||7-8|
Why do we need sleep?
Directly lifted from this article from the National Sleep Foundation, We tend to think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down. But this is not the case; sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs. Various in depth research by scientists have revealed some of sleep’s critical functions, and the reasons we need it for optimal health and well-being.
One of the documented vital roles of sleep is to help us solidify and consolidate memories. As we go about our day, our brains take in an incredible amount of information. Rather than being directly logged and recorded, however, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored; and many of these steps happen while we sleep. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory—a process called “consolidation.” Researchers have also shown that after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks. Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.
Effects of sleep deprivation on the body
It goes without mentioning that you need sleep as much as you need to breath and eat and stimulants such as tea, coffee or energy drinks are not able to override your body’s profound need for sleep.
As mentioned above when we sleep , the body may seem dead but in actual sense it is actively performing very important functions, physically and mentally sub-structuring us for another day.
It is not that hard to see how sleep deprivation will no doubt adversely affect , your cognitive abilities, emotional and physical state .
Central Nervous System (Brain)
During sleep the brain rests busy neurons and forms new pathways. Production of proteins that help in cell repair also takes place. Lack of sleep may cause
- Interfered balance,coordination and decision making
- Severe fatigue resulting in increased accident risks
- Cognitive dysfunction
- More likely to have short temper and mood swings
- Increased risks of hallucinations especially if you have narcolepsy or systemic lupus erythematosus
- Mania episode may be triggered in people with manic depression
Other risks include impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts. Yes you read that right, suicidal thoughts!
Moreover as little as a single night of sleep deprivation can result in a phenomenon called “microsleeps”
That’s when you’re asleep for only a few seconds or a few minutes, but you don’t realize it.
Cardiovascular System (The heart)
Studies have also found that a single night of inadequate sleep in people who have existing hypertension can cause elevated blood pressure throughout the following day. This effect may begin to explain the correlation between poor sleep and cardiovascular disease and stroke. For example, one study found that sleeping too little (less than six hours) or too much (more than nine hours) increased the risk of coronary heart disease in women.
There is also growing evidence of a connection between obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease.
People with apnea typically experience multiple awakenings each night as a result of the closing of their airway when they fall asleep. In addition to these sleep disturbances, apnea sufferers also experience brief surges in blood pressure each time they wake up. Over time, this can lead to the chronic elevation of blood pressure known as hypertension, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Fortunately, when sleep apnea is treated, blood pressure may go down.
Immune System (Resistance to diseases)
When you are asleep, your immune system produces protective cytokines and antibodies that help in fighting infections. Sleep deprivation results in weakening of this system which leaves the body less protected when the next germ comes along.
Lack of sleep may also cause you to take longer to recover from illnesses.
Respiratory System (Breathing)
Since sleep deprivation weakens your immune system, you are more vulnerable to respiratory infections like the common cold or influenza. If you already have a chronic lung disease, sleep deprivation is likely to make it worse.
Digestive System (Your stomach)
A couple of studies have found a link between lack of sleep and weight gain, along with eating too much and not exercising. Sleep deprivation is one of the risk factors for obesity.
Sleep deprivation increases production of the stress hormone cortisol. Lack of also sleep lowers your levels of a hormone called leptin, which signals the brain that you’ve had enough to eat. In addition it increases the levels of a biochemical known as ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant.
Long term deprivation prompts your body to release higher levels of insulin after eating promoting fat storage and increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
To wrap up
Sleep deprivation can cause damage to your body in the short term. Overtime it can lead to serious chronic health problems that negatively impact your quality of life. It’s time you took sleep just as seriously as the rest of your activities.
Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.