We all have a sense of the link between our ability to function at our best and sleep. After all, nearly everyone has had a bad mood, fatigue, or poor focus following a night of poor quality sleep.
Sleep helps our bodies to recharge after a long day of activeness, thus enabling us to face each day with a fresh mind. Unfortunately, most people suffer from sleep deprivation due to several factors such as health reasons, personal habits, noise, stress, or long work hours.
You may already know that lack of sleep can make you grumpy, foggy. However, what you may not know is what it can do to your memory, sex drive, weight, looks, and overall health. Here are seven surprising lack of sleep effects.
1. Insufficient Sleep Cause Chronic Health Problems
One of the most dangerous effects of sleep deprivation is that it put you at higher risk of contracting several chronic conditions. Research has shown that there is a direct link between chronic diseases and habitual lack of sleep. Some chronic health problems linked to lack of sleep include:
• Cardiovascular diseases.
• Shortened life expectancy.
• High blood pressure.
Numerous studies have found out that insufficient sleep is one of the causes of type-2 diabetes. Sleep deprivation affects the way the body process blood glucose. As a result of poor sleep, your body can develop insulin resistance – a diabetes precursor. Insulin is vital in helping the body utilize blood glucose as energy. Research shows that people who sleep for more hours process glucose faster than a person who only sleeps for 4 hours a night.
Likewise, insufficient sleep can cause surges in blood pressure at different times of the day, especially for persons with existing hypertension. This may explain the relationship between poor sleep and heart diseases. A publication by the European Heart Journal shows that sleep deprivation increase the risk of dying from or contracting coronary heart disease. Considering the adverse effects of inadequate sleep, it’s not surprising that sleep-deprived persons tend to have a low life expectancy.
2. Sleep Deprivation Leads to Weight Gain
Insufficient sleep can lead to poor processing of high fat, sugar-rich food. Lack of sleep is also related to increased appetite. According to one study, people who sleep less than 6 hours a day are 30% more likely to be obese than people who sleep for 7 – 9 hours a day.
During sleep, the body produces ghrelin (appetite stimulant) and leptin (appetite suppressant) hormones to help regulate hunger. Lack of sleep, therefore, upsets the balance of these hormones; production of ghrelin increases while leptin is suppressed.
This means you are more prone to hunger which could lead to overeating. If your body can’t sleep to allow for energy recovery, it will try to recover the energy through other means. Your craving for sugary food increases as the body needs to boost energy levels. Consequently, you will resort to snacking, which inevitably leads to unwanted weight gain.
3. Lack of Sleep Leads to Depression
After multiple sleep-deprived nights, you are more likely to feel frustrated, helpless, and overwhelmed. In short, insufficient sleep increases symptoms of stress. A study conducted in 2007 shows that insomnia (a major sleep disorder) has strong links to depression. According to the study, persons with insomnia were five times more likely to develop anxiety and depression than people without insomnia.
On top of this, lack of sleep can cause constant changes in mood and a greater risk of mental disorders. Many symptoms of mood disorder often overlap with sleep disorders. In fact, depression and insomnia feed on each other. Depression can affect sleep quality while sleep deprivation often worsens the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
4. Sleeplessness Causes Accidents
It’s tragic how many injuries on the job and accidents on the road that are caused by sleep-deprived persons. Inquiries into the explosion of space shuttle challengers as well as the grounding of Exxon Valdez oil tanker concluded that insufficient sleep played a major role in these unfortunate events. This qualifies sleep deprivation as a public safety hazard. There is also growing evidence linking medical errors in hospitals to insufficient sleep. According to the Institutes of Medicine, over 50,000 deaths and over a million injuries each year are caused by preventable medical errors and many of which are linked to sleep-deprived medical professionals.
Long shifts coupled with other factors may affect the quality of sleep for workers, especially drivers. A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found out that 60 percent of drivers admitted that they have driven cars while feeling drowsy.
5. Sleep Deprivation Hurts the Learning Process
Sleep plays a crucial role in cognitive processes linked to learning, and lack of it will, therefore, decrease the mental alertness, attention span, thinking, learning, concentration, and reasoning abilities. This means if you are fatigued, you are less likely to learn at an effective level. You probably have experienced this. It is difficult to work at your best after a sleep-deprived night.
In the normal learning process, the skills that you learn during the day are converted to memories as you sleep. Brain ripples are responsible for the transfer of knowledge from the hippocampus to the neocortex, a section of the brain that stores long-term memories. This means if you do not get enough sleep, the acquired knowledge will not reach neocortex, which significantly lowers your ability to consolidate memory, thus making you forgetful.
6. Poor Sleep Is Linked to Respiratory Problems
Another problem associated with sleep deprivation is respiratory complications. There is a direct relationship between the respiratory system and sleep. For example, a nighttime breathing problem called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can lower the quality of sleep because an individual is forced to walk up throughout the night. Apart from causing sleep deprivation, this condition can also increase the vulnerability of contracting respiratory problems such as the common cold and flu or worsening existing chronic respiratory diseases such as lung illness.
7. Lack of Sleep Lowers Sex Drive
Sleep deprived men and women tend to have lower libido, which makes them have less interest in sex. Insufficient sleep makes one have more tension and less energy, which kills the desires for intimacy. Besides this, a lower testosterone level in men is linked to sleep apnea. Testosterone levels below 240 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). 240 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) are considered low.
Testosterone levels have a direct impact on sex drive. Testosterone is also responsible for stimulating sperm production and building muscles in men.
It is now obvious that lack of sleep can cause many health issues including respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, and mental disorders. To avoid these problems, strive to sleep for at least seven hours per day. Also, exercise daily, reduce exposure to stressors, and maintain a regular sleep pattern.