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5 Ways Lack of Sleep Affects Your Health

Everyone experiences occasional sleepless nights. This happens when you have had a tiring day or when stressed. Sometimes, it happens when you use a stimulant like coffee. But, what happens if you can’t sleep day after day? We call it Sleep Deprivation and it is a cause for alarm.

In the United States, sleep deprivation is a leading cause of major auto accidents on the roads. According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly a third of road accidents happen because the driver dozed off while behind the wheel. What’s more saddening is the fact that innocent passengers either get injured or dead in the process.

Based on a 2010 Review, sleep deprivation is a leading risk for premature death. This is sad considering that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night while teenagers and infants need 8-10 hours and 14-17 hours respectively. The problem with sleep deprivation is that it is a risk of unproductive life and different health complications.

Causes of Lack of Sleep

Most people experience sleep deprivation due to the following reasons:

  • Lack of a consistent sleep pattern
  • Reduced number of sleep hours
  • Regular use of caffeine and other stimulants before sleep time
  • Body tiredness
  • Stress

Sometimes, sleep deprivation is caused by sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea. In such cases, you need to see a sleep specialist to help you manage your condition.

Notable Signs

Sleep deprivation is often accompanied by the following signs:

  • Daytime tiredness
  • Microsleep (brief sleepiness)
  • Excessive yawning
  • Reduced focus
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Impulsive behavior

Sleep Deprivation and Your Health

Science has associated sleep deprivation with so many health issues affecting the brain, the heart, the digestive system, the immune system, and the hormonal system. Let’s look at the various ways that these 5 components are affected:

Sleep Deprivation and Your Brain

Quality sleep is very important for the optimal performance of your central nervous system. In particular, it affects how the brain works. When you sleep, neuron pathways are opened to help you remember things learned. Therefore, if you are sleep deprived, the brain becomes exhausted and you can’t think or concentrate properly.

Also, lack of sleep can lead to mood swings and hallucinations. In the first instance, you become easily irritable and in the second, you begin to see or hear things that don’t exist. Other dangers related to sleep deprivation include:

  • Feelings of depression
  • Episodes of paranoia
  • Anxiety

Sleep Deprivation and Your Heart

Sleep is important for your heart health. You need it to avoid issues like heart attack, stroke, and hypertension. If there’s an inflammation on the heart or one of its main blood vessels, you need quality sleep to give the body enough time to heal itself. Your heart, in this case, is relieved from possible discomfort and this makes it easy for it to concentrate on self-healing.

Sleep Deprivation and Your Digestive System

There are suggestions that sleep deprivation can make you overweight. Usually, two major digestive hormones (ghrelin and leptin) that are responsible for making you fuller or hungrier are affected. Leptin, for example, convinces that your brain that you’ve eaten enough and so you should stop. If you don’t sleep well, its effectiveness is interfered with. As a result, ghrelin is released to stimulate your appetite. So, you may end up eating more than you need as you don’t feel fuller easily.

In the long run, this makes you gain weight at an alarming rate. There’s also the likelihood that sleep deprivation may make you too tired to exercise. The more you reduce your level of physical activity, the more weight you gain. This is generally a risk for obesity, diabetes, and other complications.

Sleep Deprivation and Your Immunity

The role of your immune system is to offer protection against invading microbes. It’s also responsible for helping you fight existing conditions. So, when the immune system is defective, it’s easier to become sick. But, did you know that you can boost your immunity by simply having enough sleep? Well, this is possible according to science.

Your immune system releases cytokines when you sleep and this substance takes over the protective duties of your body to help neutralize threats like viruses, fungi, and bacteria. At the end of the day, your invulnerability is boosted to avoid issues like diabetes, Heart Disease, and flu.

Sleep Deprivation and Your Hormones

Lack of sleep has immense effects on the endocrine/hormonal system. Generally, hormones are optimally secreted and distributed when you sleep well. For example, men need three or more hours of adequate sleep to secrete testosterone, a reproductive hormone. Similarly, children need the same number of hours to produce the growth hormone that repairs damaged cells and boost muscle growth.

So, kids can grow well when the growth hormone production is uninterrupted. While the growth hormone can be released by different glands, the major player is the pituitary gland. Its ability to release the growth hormone is necessitated by having adequate sleep.

The Solution

While most people consider using caffeine and other stimulants to deal with a lack of sleep, sometimes the effects worsen. So, you can’t rely on coffee to fight sleep deprivation. It may eventually lead to nighttime insomnia and you don’t want this. If it gets chronic, then there’s the likelihood of your productive life coming to a standstill. So, what should you do?

The simplest solution is sleeping for many hours as you are required. Just sleep 7-9 hours or as recommended by the doctor and wait to see your quality of living improve. If you have a sleep disorder, talk to a sleep specialist who can recommend any of the following solutions:

  • Sleep medications
  • Airways opening through natural ways

But still, the best solution for sleep deprivation is prevention. You should restrain yourself from failing to have enough sleep. Here are the expert tips that can help you with this:

  • Reduce daytime naps to sleep more at night
  • Reduce nighttime meal portions
  • Observe a regular bedtime schedule
  • Cool off for at least an hour before going to bed after a meal or a bath
  • Work out more regularly but not around bedtime
  • Do away with post-noon coffee

Closing Thought:

Sleep is good for both your mind and soul. You need it daily to not only stay productive but also healthy. So, learn to sleep normally as this will protect you from the discussed health issues and many other complications linked to sleep deprivation.