Dangerous consequences of not sleeping enough

Dangerous consequences of not sleeping enough
Dangerous consequences of not sleeping enough

When you spend the night tossing and turning, you know how you're going to feel the next day - out of sorts, tired and grumpy! You just don't feel like yourself.

Research shows that a lack of sleep can lead to irritability at work, with employees sending rudely-toned emails, making derogatory remarks to colleagues and ignoring requests for meetings.

You may also be more likely to make impulsive decisions and feel more anxious. Not sleeping enough can also cause you to lose your sense of humour. You may also lose interest in sex.

But not getting enough sleep does far more than make you feel out of sorts. A lack of sleep has a real effect on both mental and physical health. It's when you're asleep that your body's chemical balance is restored, and your brain creates new thought connections, helping to retain memories.

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Are you sleeping enough?

Signs that you may be deprived of sleep include:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Frequent yawning
  • Irritability

Taking stimulants, such as caffeine drinks, to beat tiredness can make matters worse. They make it harder to fall asleep the following night, leading to insomnia.

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How can a lack of sleep affect your health?

Sleep deprivation is linked with various health problems, from lowered immunity to weight gain.

The central nervous system

Chronic insomnia disrupts the central nervous system, so your body does not send or process information effectively. As a result, the brain is exhausted, and you will find it harder to concentrate and learn new things.

The signals that your brain sends to your body may also be disrupted, so your coordination may be poorer, and you will be more at risk of accidents.

You may experience microsleep episodes, falling asleep for a few seconds without realising. These episodes can be hazardous when operating machinery or driving.

Your mental and emotional state may also be negatively affected, and you may experience mood swings. Sleep deprivation may also impact your decision-making - this has been used as a form of torture and can even trigger hallucinations.

Other psychological risks include increased anxiety, impulsive behaviour, depression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts.

The immune system

Your immune system builds protective substances such as cytokines and antibodies while sleeping. So when you aren't sleeping enough, your immune system becomes less efficient at fending off invaders that cause illnesses. In addition, some cytokines also help you sleep better, boosting your immune system while you slumber.

In the long term, a lack of sleep also increases the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

The respiratory system

There is a two-way relationship between sleep and your respiratory system. Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that interrupts your sleep and reduces its quality.

And sleep deprivation caused by this constant waking leaves you more open to respiratory illnesses such as flu and colds.

The digestive system

A lack of sleep also increases the likelihood of becoming obese. Two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which control feelings of fullness and hunger, are affected by sleep deprivation.

When you don't sleep enough, your brain raises ghrelin levels and lowers leptin, stimulating your appetite.

Poor sleep can also make you too exhausted to exercise. In addition, reduced activity can eventually cause weight gain because you don't burn enough calories.

Not getting enough sleep can reduce the amount of insulin your body releases after eating. And it is also linked to insulin resistance, increasing the risk of diabetes and obesity.

The cardiovascular system

Sleep deprivation increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. This is because your body needs sleep to keep your blood vessels and heart healthy. Sleep also helps the body repair and heal the heart and blood vessels. In addition, it helps to reduce inflammation and maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

The endocrine system

Hormone production depends on sleep. Waking up through the night can interrupt the process. For example, testosterone production requires at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep. Poor sleep may also affect the production of growth hormones in children and young people.

How is sleep deprivation treated?

The basic treatment for sleep deprivation is to sleep more, usually around 7 to 9 hours a night.

But this may prove challenging, especially if you've had insomnia for several weeks. You may suffer from a sleep disorder which can be diagnosed and treated by a doctor or sleep specialist.

These are some common sleep disorders:

  • Insomnia
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Narcolepsy
  • Circadian rhythm disorders

Your physician may order a sleep study to measure the quality of your sleep, either at a sleep centre or at home.

A sleep disorder such as sleep apnea can be treated with a device that keeps the airway open while you sleep.

Get your sleep back on track

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. If you aren't sleeping enough, the following tips will help you establish a better sleep routine:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even at weekends and on holiday
  • Avoid naps in the daytime
  • Relax by listening to music, meditating, reading or taking a warm bath for an hour before bed
  • Avoid heavy meals late in the evening
  • Turn off screens before bedtime
  • Limit caffeine after midday
  • Limit or avoid alcohol - you may fall asleep quickly after drinking alcohol, but it is likely to disrupt your sleep pattern
  • Exercise regularly, but not right before bedtime

A final word

Understanding the consequences of not getting enough sleep puts you in an excellent position to ensure you get enough. Most people find that establishing good sleep hygiene improves their sleep patterns. But if you are still not sleeping well, talk to a medical professional. There may be an underlying health condition that is disrupting your sleep and requires treatment.


Sources:

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/sleep-deprivation.htm


Marie Pure

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