Occasionally, there are nights when you find it hard to sleep, even when you make a conscious effort to, and that’s fine – normal, even. However, it becomes a completely different scenario when this happens regularly, and it doesn’t even matter if you’re staying up intentionally or you’re just finding it hard to fall asleep.
Sleep is extremely important for the body to function normally, because your body uses that period of rest to recuperate, refreshing your organs in preparation for the tasks of the next day. So, if you deprive yourself of good sleep, there are tons of negative effects that it will have on your body, and some of them do not become immediately obvious until it is too late. Some signs that point to the fact a person is suffering from sleep deprivation include
- Excessive Sleepiness
- Excessive yawning
- Daytime fatigue (even when you do not perform any tasks or exercises)
For the purpose of this article, we will guide you through a number of effects of sleep deprivation on your body, to stress the importance of good sleep to sound health.
Increased exposure to diseases.
Studies on sleep deprivation, published in the European Journal showed that people that get less than six hours of sleep every night stand a higher chance of suffering health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and obesity. Other health problems that have been linked to sleep deprivation include high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and heart failure.
Negative impact on functions of the brain
Sleep deprivation can also negatively affect the parts of the brain that deal with storing information and cognitive thinking. While you sleep, your brain remains active, forming connections that will help you to process and retain new information. If you do not get to sleep, this process will not be operational, and it will have a negative impact on your short and long term memory.
Additionally, a sustained lack of sleep will affect your concentration, as your brain will be stressed out and you will be too tired to focus on tasks. Your problem solving skills and creativity will begin to dissipate, slowly but surely.
Negative impact on the immune system
During sleep, the body’s immune system produces cytokines and some other infection-fighting, protective substances. These substances protect your body against unwanted invaders such as viruses and bacteria. More specifically, cytokines help you to sleep better, providing energy for your immune system to perform its duty of defending your body against illnesses.
Now, if you deprive yourself of sleep, all these activities will be put on hold. Your immune system will not be able to build up its forces, and the resultant exposure will turn your body into a playground for the unwanted invaders. This greatly increases the risk of getting attacked by chronic illnesses.
Reduced Sex Drive
Sleep deprivation also leads to a reduced sex drive. This can be attributed to the fact that it causes increased tension and depleted energy, two factors that will leave you too weak and/or depressed to ignite any solid interest in sex.
Sleep deprivation causes the body to release a stress hormone called “cortisol”. If too much of this hormone is released, it begins to break down collagen (a protein that helps to keep the skin smooth and improve elasticity). According to Dr. Banks, a dermatologist and the director of The Centre for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in New York, U.S.A, there are also situations where sleep deprivation will take a toll on the production of growth hormones in the body, causing wrinkles and other signs of aging to appear prematurely. (Banks S; Dinges DF. Behavioural and physiological consequences of sleep restriction. J Clin Sleep Med 2007; 3(5):519-528).
Negative impact on the respiratory system
The relationship between the respiratory system and sleep is a two-way street. There is a night-time breathing disorder called OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) and it can greatly affect the quality of sleep that a person gets. It will cause the affected person to wake up at intervals all through the night, leaving such a person vulnerable to respiratory problems such as the flu and the common cold. Now imagine if a person already has respiratory problems, sleep deprivation will only make it terribly worse.
Negative impact on the digestive system
As suggested earlier, sleep deprivation can lead to health issues that are related to eating disorders. There are hormones on your body that control how you feed – namely leptin and ghrelin – and when you do not get enough sleep, these hormones malfunction.
Ghrelin is an appetite stimulant, and Leptin tells your brain when you have consumed enough food. Sleep deprivation causes a reduction in the production of Leptin and an increase in that of Ghrelin, meaning that your brain does not know when you’ve had enough to eat, and you begin to overfeed. This may eventually lead to unhealthy weight gain, and consequently diseases such as obesity.
William is the CEO, editor in Chief and one of the founders of SleepMentor. Before the launch of the company, he worked as a pillow and mattress salesman. This passion was fuelled by his interest in helping people to find the sleep products that they want, and it lives on at the SleepMentor website, where sleep product reviews are provided for people that need the information.