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How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Health

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Health

Sleep deprivation is an epidemic in our culture. Careers, kids, elderly parents, financial issues, the state of the world, and countless other factors have made us a nation of chronically tired people. What many people do not understand is that while sleep deprivation may be caused by stress, it can also be caused by undiagnosed sleep disorders, and sufferers may not even realize they are sleep deprived. The fact they never feel quite right is written off as “this is just how things are.”

Sleep deprivation can have many effects, and none of them are good. Here are some of the things that sleep deprivation can do to your health:

Short-term effects of sleep deprivation

Memory impairment – People who are sleep deprived may have trouble remembering names, facts, and recalling words.

Cognitive impairment – They may also have problems processing information, solving problems, or following a conversation.

Reduction in alertness – Not noticing things going on around you is a hallmark of reduced alertness.

Stress on your relationships – If you are not sleeping well, this might affect your bed partner’s sleep. This has a whole host of consequences, including separate bedrooms and relationship conflicts.

Occupational injury – This is especially prevalent with workers who work with heavy machinery, but it can affect anyone on the job.

Automobile accident – Drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile accidents each year in the U.S. according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Lower quality of life – Being tired may cause you to miss out on lots of social activities that contribute to a full, happy life.

stressed, no sleep

Long-term effects of sleep deprivation

If you thought the short-term effects of sleep deprivation were scary, wait until you read this list. People who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation are not only at higher risk for items on the above list, but also are more prone to:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

The good news is if you do suffer from a sleep disorder, treatment can mitigate many of the consequences of your previously sleep-deprived life.

The bad news is that untreated sleep deprivation results in a higher mortality rate.

The American Sleep Disorders Association recognizes more than 85 sleep disorders affecting more than 70 million Americans.

How to recognize if you are sleep deprived

You are chronically hungry – When your body does not get enough sleep, it may try to satisfy itself with food. Many physicians have noted the correlation between lack of sleep and obesity, and many suggest that part of any weight-loss plan should include ample sleep.

You’re more impulsive and less inhibited – People who are sleep deprived often lose some of their self-control. They may also have more of a temper and be faster to start a fight than they normally would be.

Your memory seems to be bad – If you can’t remember what you ate for dinner last night, or where you went last Saturday, you may be sleep deprived. When sleep deprived, we are not paying close attention to our surroundings. This is not how clear memories are formed in the human brain.

Decision making is problematic – When you are sleep deprived, your higher cognitive function is impaired and making decisions (or solving problems) can be severely affected.

Your motor skills don’t seem to be what they were – Not only are cognitive abilities affected by sleep deprivation, but so are motor skills. Your body’s reaction time is slower, and if you couple that with not really paying attention to your surroundings, you could trip, fall, or drop things.

You don’t feel emotionally centered – You become hyper-emotional, or slap-happy if you are overtired. Think about what happens to toddlers when they are overdue for their nap or bedtime. That’s right, they have a meltdown. Same thing with sleep-deprived adults.

You get sick more often, and your recovery takes longer – Sleep is one of the major factors that bolsters our immune systems. When we sleep, our bodies produce proteins called cytokines which help us fight off infections. Less sleep equates to a less effective immune system.

You are having trouble focusing your eyes – The muscles that control how we focus our vision are very susceptible to lack of sleep. Not only might you have problems focusing on close objects, but you could also be seeing double.

Your skin isn’t looking great – When we sleep, our skin regenerates. In women, poor sleep can affect estrogen levels which can manifest in many ways, including breakouts.

You think you’ve fallen asleep while driving – When we are fatigued, our bodies will snatch a few seconds of shut-eye at a time. This is particularly frightening if we are behind the wheel.

Conclusion

baby sleeping

If you relate to any of the above symptoms of sleep deprivation, talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a sleep specialist. Most sleep disorders can be helped, and your sleep habits can be improved. The results will be a healthier, happier, and more energized you. And you might just find that you’ll sleep like a baby!

 

About the Author Robert J. Hudson

Chief editor here at Snore Nation and a proud father of two cool boys. I am a reformed snorer, a reformed smoker, a reformed overeater, a reformed city dweller and a reformed workaholic stress monster on the mission to share my insider tips to restore that quality sleep for you and your partner!

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