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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 a number of health problems
Read on to learn the causes of sleep deprivation and exactly how it affects specific body functions and systems.
Your central nervous system is the main information highway of your body. Sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly, but chronic insomnia can disrupt how your body usually sends and processes information.
During sleep, pathways form 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, such as memory after studying
You may also find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. The signals your body sends may also be delayed, decreasing your coordination and increasing your risk for accidents.
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 really there. Other psychological risks include:
You may also end up experiencing microsleep during the day. During these episodes, you’ll fall asleep for a few to several seconds without realizing it.
Microsleep is out of your control and can be extremely dangerous if you’re driving. It can also make you more prone to injury if you operate heavy machinery at work and have a microsleep episode.
While you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances like antibodies and cytokines. It uses these substances to combat foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
Certain cytokines also help you to sleep, giving your immune system more efficiency 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, and it may also take you longer to recover from illness.
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 sleep quality.
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.
Sleep deprivation is another risk factor for becoming overweight and obese. 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 the night.
A lack of sleep can also make you feel too tired to exercise . Over time, reduced physical activity can make you gain weight because you’re not burning enough calories and not building muscle mass.
Sleep deprivation also causes your body to release less insulin after you eat. Insulin helps to reduce your blood sugar (glucose) level.
Sleep deprivation also lowers the body’s tolerance for glucose and is associated with insulin resistance. These disruptions can lead to diabetes mellitus and obesity
Sleep affects processes that keep your heart and blood vessels healthy, including those that affect your blood sugar, blood pressure , and inflammation levels. It also plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair the blood vessels and heart.
Hormone production is dependent on your sleep. For testosterone production, you need at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is about the time of your first R.E.M. 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 the body build muscle mass and repair cells and tissues, in addition to other growth functions.
The pituitary gland releases growth hormone throughout each day, but adequate sleep and exercise also help the release of this hormone.
Best way: ensure you get adequate sleep, recommended is 7-9 hours for adults aged 18 to 64.
If you continue to have problems sleeping at night and are fighting daytime fatigue, talk to your doctor. They can test for underlying health conditions that might be getting in the way of your sleep schedule.
18 yo medical student😄 I share interesting and sciency articles! 🇬🇧🇧🇩 MBTI: INTJ-T
Recently, having not enough sleep made me search this up to inspire me to sleep better, no matter how busy I am- that's an issue with my time planning and not sleep deprivation. Otherwise it becomes one big cycle 🔄
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